My Friend Buddy

If I had to choose one word to describe my friend Buddy Gray, it would be relentless. He was an advocate on behalf of homeless people in Cincinnati. For advocates of any stripe, relentlessness is a wonderful attribute. I remember the endless meetings required to put together a national homeless movement in the 1980s. Buddy was relentless in his pursuit of consensus. He drove a lot of people a little crazy.

I laugh when I remember throwing him out of my office at the Community for Creative Non-Violence in Washington, D.C. I was preparing to leave the organization after 17 years and didn’t know where I would go. Buddy, in one of the more loving and caring gestures during that difficult time, was there insisting that I come to Cincinnati to stay at his Drop-In Center for some R & R.

I tried to explain that Cincinnati was not a place I equated with renewal, but he was relentless and insistent, until I finally ran out of patience and asked him to leave. He shrugged his shoulders and walked out, not in the least offended, promising to return another day.

He was a remarkable man. When a Cincinnati slum landlord decided to sell blocks of skid row rental buildings, a sympathetic real estate agent gave Buddy a heads up. Buddy managed to scrape together the down payment money and bought up all the buildings. He was able to renovate and preserve them for low-income residents, as well as increase the amount of space he had to provide services to homeless people.

The development community was outraged. Buddy became their favorite person to hate. I remember visiting him once and getting a tour of his little empire. He seemed amazed at being able to pull it off, but as always was passionate in pursuing his vision. It stands as a testimony to relentlessness at its best.

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 1997
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