A Deep Love of the Homeless, A Strong Sense of Rights of the Poor
by Kate Uhlir
As Trinity Cathedral's evening bell tolled November 20, its upper room, full of prayerful homeless supporters, recalled their friend, stanley buddy gray, 46, who was shot and killed in Cincinnati's Drop Inn Center, an Over-the-Rhine shelter he founded 23 years ago. All Cleveland shelters turned off all lights for a minute of silent prayer that evening - their small memorial for a giant idol.
Gray, known as, "buddy gray," spelled his name with lower case letters and was considered the strongest and most articulate voice for the homeless in the United States. The Plain Dealer quoted Lemuel Israel, 42, a Cincinnati Grapevine vendor who lives in a treatment center, "My first thought was that it's over now. We don't have a chance."
Bryan Gillooly, former director of Northeast Coalition for the Homeless, remembered gray's philosophy, "Respect for the poor sometimes requires standing in the way of (a big city's commercial building) progress. In fact, I never knew what to expect when people asked me if I knew buddy. He could easily offend you to death when he talked about the injustice of homelessness and poverty."
Gillooly emphasized that the homeless and the poor, as well as the shelter community, could always rely on gray's loud voice and strong action. Several times gray was jailed for chaining himself to buildings in order to prevent demolition of low-income housing.
A poem, "Acquainted With the Nite," published in Ohio's Homeless Grapevine the day he died, was gray's final shout for justice.
At Trinity, Cleveland shelter leader, Sister Donna Hawk, C.S.J., asked, "Is this the end of an era?" She lowered her head and wiped her eyes and recalled gray's ardent, relentless and intimidating advocacy. "He was passionate, with a deep love for the homeless; a strong sense of the rights of the poor. Who can speak for the poor like buddy spoke? [He] didn't make friends of politicians."
Sister Mary Frances Harrington, C.S.J., Executive Director of Cleveland's Family Transitional Housing Inc. recalled, "Somehow buddy always got homeless people to the Coalition [Coalition for the Homeless and Housing in Ohio] meetings every month. He'd come through the door with his hair in a long pony tail and a couple of homeless people on each arm."
Friends provided additional insight into gray's sentiments. "If you have two pair of shoes, that's too many when there are homeless." "He was always giving 200% to the poor."
"He never let you down." He believed in justice and diversity," stated fellow COHHIO Board member, Sharon Parries, Associate Director of Transitional Housing.
Sister Donna continued her prayer, "Let nothing in buddy's life be lost. He was passionate. buddy wasn't afraid of anything. He always called a spade a spade. Was his death a waste? Or a wake-up call?"
Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published January – February 1997 Issue 19