I write with deeply sad news that Donald Brooks, a Vocational Development Specialist/Case Manager with FSA/OWO’s FRSP team lost his life over the weekend.
Donald was a passionate, energetic, enthusiastic individual who tirelessly advocated for people experiencing homelessness and poverty. He was an unabashed truth-teller who tolerated no excuses and challenged people in authority to do more. As an Army Veteran who overcame numerous challenges, including homelessness, his advocacy was grounded in hard-fought lessons of personal experience.
I first got to know Donald about a decade ago as a member of the District’s Interagency Council on Homelessness. At every meeting, without exception, he would speak up and speak out. ICH meetings include many advocates and many opinions, but Donald stood out. He stood out because he was usually spot-on with his commentary, and even when it was harsh and long-winded, it also came with a smile and a comforting hug before or after the meeting. His combination of harsh truth and affection conveyed love and connection. It felt like an acknowledgement that we are together in a movement to end homelessness and part of how we get there is by challenging and supporting each other.
A few years ago, when Donald joined DHS, he let me know how proud and enthusiastic he felt to be part of our team. He was also clear that when he speaks up at meetings, it will be in his personal capacity, but we would still be hearing from him. I replied, “Great! I hope so!” I will miss him and I know I will be asking myself, “what am I not thinking of, what would Donald say?”
Donald was a treasured member of our community and his loss will be felt by all who knew him.
Laura Zelinger is the director of the D.C. Department of Human Services. Tributes from more DHS staff members are collected here.