A local resident whose life has been described as an amazing journey of redemption and recovery died last week.
Dorothy Edwards was a former homeless person who became a prominent advocate for those still suffering on the streets. She served as an Enrichment Services Coordinator at Housing Works of California, a role she had held since 2014.
She was 65.
Edwards died after a battle with cancer.
Edwards’ journey from homelessness to advocacy was a testament to her resilience and determination. She and her dog, Gunner, had lived under a freeway overpass in Pasadena. During that time, she had struggled with addiction issues and had faced the harsh realities of life on the streets
According to Housing Director Bill Huang, in 2010, the City identified Edwards as one of the unhoused persons in Pasadena who was most likely to die if not housed.
The City provided Edwards with outreach services and housing.
She was identified by Housing Works, an agency that used a blended approach to ending homelessness called “supportive housing.” This approach combined providing permanent housing with “wrap-around” services to support an individual and help them stay off the streets in the long term.
Initially, Edwards was very skeptical but eventually decided to give the City services a try.
The results were remarkable and changed her life.
Edwards was quickly permanently housed in Pasadena, got clean and sober, got teeth, got a job, became an advocate and remained in her same unit for about 10 years until she died.
“For eight years, Edwards … wandered the streets of Pasadena sleeping in alleys, scouring dumpsters for scraps of food and smoking meth to fend off a crushing depression,” USA Today reported in a 2014 story about Edwards.
Edwards had been diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder by Housing Works, a Los Angeles homeless outreach center, which also helped her find an apartment.
Edwards’ advocacy work extended beyond her role at Housing Works.
She was an inaugural graduate of the CSH “Speak Up!” Advocacy training program and served on the National Board of Directors for the Corporation for Supportive Housing, a Community Development Financial Institute.
In her advocacy, Edwards shared her story of lived expertise on a local, state, and federal stage, seeking policy change to better address homelessness. Her efforts had been recognized at the highest levels; she had been named a Congressional Woman of the Year by California Representative Judy Chu, 27th Congressional District.
Edwards was born in Monrovia and grew up in Hacienda Heights.
Despite the challenges she had faced, Edwards continued to give back to her community, even baking cakes for The Women’s Room, a day shelter for homeless and at-risk women.
“Dorothy was a true embodiment of strength and tenacity, who conquered the most formidable of challenges. But Dorothy’s story is not just one of personal triumph; it’s a testament to the transformative power of support, compassion, and hope,” said a Pasadea City employee who knew her. “She found hope at Housing Works, where she was welcomed and uplifted. Through a safe apartment, financial support, counseling, and a community, Dorothy began her journey toward recovery, healing, and self-discovery, which led to her finding her voice as a Speak Up! advocate.”
“Dorothy embraced life and became instant friends with almost everyone she met. She always wanted to do more to end homelessness,” the City Hall employee said.
Pasadena Now joins the City in mourning the passing of Dorothy Edwards.