Mary Ann Luby and Jesse Smith.

By Jesse Smith, volunteer 

I was on my way to a meeting at the National Coalition for the Homeless, thinking of a conversation I had with Kenneth Belosky, one of our Street Sense vendors stationed at the Dupont Circle Metro station, and how cold it was on this beautiful sunny day. I happened by chance to come across another friend and colleague, Eric Sheptock, a Homeless Advocate and former member of The Committee to Save the Franklin Shelter. I smiled as I recognized him. Hands extended in greeting as we approached each other but before I could say anything Eric spoke.  

“I thought that was you,” he said. “Did you hear about Mary Ann Luby? She passed away last week.” I didn’t hear anything else he said after that. It got a bit colder, Eric was gone and I was numb with grief. Mary Ann was a native New Yorker and to many of you the name of Mary Ann Luby has no cause for recognition. But for many of us, the socially and economically challenged, she was an icon and champion of the poor, disadvantaged and homeless in Washington D.C. I can assure you that many members of our City Council, including the past and new mayor, know exactly who she is and who she represents.  

Luby was a Catholic nun as well as an outreach coordinator for the Legal Clinic for the Homeless. But her job description did not fully capture what she did and how she did it. She reached out to the people in our communities and voiced our concerns to the city government. Michael Stoops of NCH recalled her as having the energy of someone who was perhaps twenty years old. “She was tenacious,” he said.  

I agree. Where there was an activity that was of concern to our community, she was there. Once I was at a meeting sponsored by a church in Northeast that was attempting to create some cohesion and coordination among the various religious advocacy organizations in the District. It was a small group in attendance on a Saturday at that, and behold, there she was, representing no particular religious group. Rather, she came as a voice of the people. I was used to seeing her in the Northwest wards three and four, and yet there she was in ward five, one of the most in-need sections of the city.  

As a personal note, Mary Ann was and is my angel. She brought me back from the brink of destruction when I was a member of the homeless community and lived in the former Franklin Shelter. It was she who got me involved with the struggle to keep the shelter open to serve the men who resided there, who otherwise had no place to go except the streets, parks, alleys or storefronts. This brought out many innate skills I did not know I possessed. She had very much to do with my fight with depression, helplessness and hopelessness. She helped me gain a foothold on my sanity and become a productive member of society once again. It is because of her that I have become involved in community activism and will dedicate the balance of my existence in that pursuit. Who knows how many others she has helped?  

An angel has left the building, perhaps a building should be named for her. She is now with God. We on earth will all miss you. 

By Robert Warren, vendor 

Whether or not they knew Mary Ann Luby, the homeless people of this city will blessed this holiday season with another voice in heaven.  

The last time I talked to the Lord’s helper, Mary Ann told me I was right to advocate for District residents who suffer under taxation without representation and now find themselves jobless and homeless in the city they were born in. The federal and local government should do more to help lifelong and longtime District residents with jobs and affordable housing. At the same time, there should not be residency requirements for low barrier homeless shelters and the services they provide.  

The LORD only knows how many lives Mary Ann Luby touched along the way but thinking of her reminds me of the true meaning of Christmas. I can see her now, trying to help angels who have fallen get back home. Mary Ann Luby, who for so many years has been a help and a voice for the poor and the homeless had a great life and was a great American. She was truly loved and will be truly missed.