She was a hawk, befitting her name, on the near West Side of Cleveland protecting homeless people. My first memory of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless was a picture of four tough looking women on the front of the Plain Dealer Metro section being sworn in as Deputy Registrars to assist homeless people to vote. This was in early 1990s and they looked like no one would mess with them. They had won the right for homeless people to use a park bench as an address to vote, and all of the volunteers in the back of the photo were going to fan out and bring social justice to the community. The one on the right with her hand up being sworn in was Donna Hawk who passed away last night. Sister Donna Hawk was never intimidated by power or the powerful. She helped to found Transitional Housing Inc. out of an abandoned motel on the near West Side of Cleveland (now called Front Steps). She had a deep love for helping women even those who have made mistakes in their life.
Sr. Donna was a part of the Coalition at its founding in 1987. She was the County appointment to the Office of Homeless Services. She worked to bring more resources to the struggle to end homelessness and create safe places for those without housing. Sr. Donna stood up to neighbors who responded to homeless people with fear. It is always difficult to argue with a nun. She embarrassed politicians into finding a space at night for everyone who requested help. Sr. Donna was a strong, opinionated champion for mending the social safety net. She believed that government could solve problems and that by focusing on a problem elected offiicals can allieviate human suffering.
Sister Donna Hawk did not always agree with the direction of the Coalition or our advocacy positions, but family members often disagree. At the end of the day on the big issues we agreed that it was an injustice people had to spend time without a home. We agreed that the richest society to ever exist could find a way to provide housing to every one living in our city. We agreed that women need additional attention and resources because the overwhelming majority who experience homelessness have a history of serious abuse leading to an emergency.
Sister Donna Hawk Funeral Liturgy:
Monday, February 2, 2015, 10:00 AM
St. Joseph Center at the Sisters of St. Joseph mother house – 3430 Rocky River Dr.
Celebrant: Father Bob Begin
Here is the Congressional Statement from Dennis Kucinich recognizing her work in Cleveland:
"Madam Speaker, I rise today in honor and recognition of Sister Donna L. Hawk of Cleveland, Ohio, as she is named the West Side Catholic Center’s Walk in Faith recipient of 2009. Throughout her life, Sister Donna Hawk has turned her faith into action, uplifting the lives of those living on the streets. Sister Donna has become a nationally-known leader by creating and operating transitional housing for the homeless, especially for women and their children fleeing domestic violence. While working for many years as a volunteer at the West Side Catholic Shelter, Sister Donna developed a special compassion for women, many of whom had young children seeking refuge from abusive situations. In 1986, without funding, Sister Donna teamed with Sister Loretta Schulte to rally community leaders and developers in order to transform a motel on Cleveland’s west side into Transitional Housing, Inc.—a place of shelter and source of counseling and resources for women and children in need. For more than twenty years, Transitional Housing,Inc. has served as a model for similar programs throughout the nation and across the world."
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