Saying Goodbye to Bill Hobson
Bill Hobson, the recently retired executive director of homeless provider DESC, died last Friday at age 76. He was among the most memorable characters in the homeless community. Beyond Seattle “nice,” Bill was blunt, smart, politically savvy, fearless, outspoken and took great pride in serving homeless people with high needs.
As quoted in the Sunday, March 6 Seattle Times article about his work, Bill would often say “There is no such thing as a throwaway person.” Over his thirty years of working at DESC, he built up the organization to be a key provider to the highest needs individuals experiencing homelessness, particularly those with serious mental health issues. DESC provides 1100 housing units, 279 shelter beds, clinical services, outreach and employment to the people it serves.
Bill was a big thinker with a long-range view, often keen to prove—academically—how best practices were needed in serving homeless people. Despite legal opposition he built 1811 Eastlake in Seattle, a “wet” housing site that garnered national accolades for providing housing for people with significant alcohol dependency and without restricting alcohol usage. The idea being that it is better to serve people where they are at than requiring people to be clean and sober to access housing and services. A national study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed the positive effects of 1811’s housing for many of the tenants and significant reduction in costs of emergency services that would have otherwise been needed if people were living outside.
Much as he will be missed, Bill Hobson left behind a well-run organization while having nurtured a solid senior management team and an Executive Director with twenty years of experience at DESC, Daniel Malone. He touched a lot of lives, having served many thousands of people who were not throwaway people, thanks to the work of DESC.