Council Remembers Willie Joe Mackey

Willie Joe MackeyThe National HCH Council grieves the death of our colleague and friend Willie Joe Mackey. Willie passed away late last week in his home in Palo Alto, CA. He was a member of the Respite Care Providers’ Network Steering Committee and a former member of the National Consumer Advisory Board. He was a tireless advocate both locally and nationally.

Janet Kohl of Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital Systems worked closely with Willie and shared these words:

Welcome! We are your Village! This was the title to Willie Mackey’s Key Note speech at the 2015 International Street Medicine Conference held in San Jose. Willie lived by this mantra. We, the Health and Hospital System, the Medical Respite, the National Health Care for the Homeless Council and the many other community agencies were Willie’s village. After being homeless for several years, Willie was the Medical Respite’s first patient in 2008. While we gave him a bed to heal for a few months, he gave us years of support. Willie joined the Homeless Health Care Advisory Board where he spent the next several years as a consumer advocate in Santa Clara County. Willie served on the National Consumer Advisory Board of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council. Willie’s mission was to advocate for consumer voices when policy changes and health care practice affected the homeless. He would say, “Include us in the in the decisions that affect us.” Over the last 8 years, Willie became involved in many organizations, creating voice for the homeless. Willie became a local, national, and international speaker as his homeless advocacy role grew. Willie believed in community, in taking care of each other, and in recognizing our similarities, not our differences. Willie believed in the village. Willie has been one of our greatest teachers and has made a great and lasting impact on our lives. Knowing Willie, as many of us did, he clearly passed his legacy onto each one of us. We can remember him by including the voice of the homeless consumer when we make decisions affecting homeless health care.  To honor Willie, simply help each other, just as you would for those in your village.

More Remembrances of Willie

David Modersbach:

Willie Mackey was a friend, a fellow traveler and a hero to many of us at the Alameda County HCH Program. Challenged by poor health–which caused and in turn compounded his years of homelessness from 2006-2010–Willie never backed down from his commitment to fight for health and housing, especially Respite Care, for persons experiencing homelessness.Willie was actively involved in many projects, including the National Health Care for the Homeless Council Consumer Advisory Board, where he provided the Alameda County HCH program’s CAB with much support and inspiration. He also led the Santa Clara Homeless Healthcare Advisory Board, and was involved in countless other activities… Willie believed in changing policy by getting to the table, and speaking from experience, wisdom, love and quiet rage.  He was a listener, and self-reflective.  He appeared humble and shy, but he was oh-so-powerful and articulate. We are shocked and saddened by his untimely passing.  He was still blazing forward, attending the NHCHC Respite Care committee meeting in Nashville the week before he died.  Willie will be missed by the hundreds of persons, housed and unhoused, who benefited from his presence and his person. We can all take inspiration by some things that he left behind…

Sabrina Edgington:

I just found out that a dear sweet friend of mine passed away last week. When I first met Willie, he gave me a business card that had two pictures on it: one picture was his smiling face and the other was his gnarly amputated foot. I still keep that card. He was a tireless advocate for those who are sick and live on the streets. He himself slept on a rock for years until his diabetes got so bad that he had to get his foot amputated. As you can imagine, shelter food isn’t the best for people with prescribed diets and being homeless he was on his feet all day. He was lucky enough to be the first patient in a medical respite program in California and was able to rest on a bed instead of on his rock for several months after his amputation. Eventually the medical respite team found him housing. He always worked hard to be a model for others and to give a helping hand where he could. He traveled and spoke at any event or hearing that would have him. He became a member of the Steering Committee that I staffed for several years and worked harder than most to make sure that our work made a difference. I saw him only two weeks ago and he seemed healthy and positive. He called me his mentor but really he was my mentor. He leaves behind a legacy and he will be missed by a lot of people.

Joanne Guarino:

Hey y’all I spent a few minutes with him in Nashville however he helped me understand. Things around Respite and NCAB. He was a great mentor for me. He would call and ask me questions about Boston but usually by the end of the call I was asking and receiving all kinds of info. I was shocked at some of the things he knew. He will be sorely missed. It is a sad day for the consumer because he fought every day for us. I will miss you my friend. God has you in his arms. You are still with me in spirit.

Rodney Dawkins:

Willie will be missed. He was a great leader, hardworking, and compassionate about helping the consumers.

Katherine Cavanaugh:

Willie did so much for our consumers as a peer and mentor within NCAB, and he gave to the Council in so many ways around building the respite care work and engaging consumers through the Education Committee. He was a fierce advocate and friend that will be deeply missed and always appreciated.

Julia Dobbins:

I am brokenhearted to share that our colleague and friend Willie Mackey passed away at his home late last week. This is a shock as he seemed in good health and great spirits when we saw him just two weeks ago. He was deeply involved in the work of the Council and was a tireless advocate for medical respite.

John Lozier:

Our dear friend and colleague Willie Joe Mackey has passed away. I will remember Willie as smiling  (shyly, slyly) and steadfast. Many of you will have seen him just a week earlier at our Nashville meetings. He served on the Steering Committee of the Respite Care Providers Network, on the NCAB Steering Committee, on the Education Committee, on the Board, and maybe elsewhere.

Annie Nicol:

I can hardly contain the sadness I feel with his passing. He had shared his health was fragile but not letting it get in the way of advocating his deep understanding of cause  and direction needed to help the consumer community. I always cherished our conversations at face to face meetings and the continual volunteering to keep us on time for monthly phone meetings.  Such a great loss for us but he will be sure to find a thrown in heaven .