Will Daley, Defender of the People (June 27, 1952 — November 3, 2017)

When I first heard of Will, he was a case manager at Hamilton. There are many good case managers in San Francisco, but I think it’s fairly rare, across the board, to find social workers who are really fully in league with the people they work for. Will was fully, unapologetically, and—given the nature of social services—often contentiously on the side of the homeless families at Hamilton. As a case manager, he began volunteering at the Coalition on Homelessness, first on matters of shelter residents’ rights, but later expanding that to policing matters, as well.

When a position with the Shelter Client Advocates—basically, public defenders within the shelter system—opened up, he applied, and was a natural fit. He later served also on the Shelter Monitoring Committee.

Will had a surly side that was riled by the indignities homeless and poor people face in our society—be that in personal interactions, systemic oppressions or even just systemic incompetence. These latter two led to his serving for a time on the Shelter Monitoring Committee.

Literally hundreds of homeless people have known Will through his advocacy work—usually as their only ally in shelter re-entry hearings. But he’s been there for the community both in more public ways, and as a cop-watcher/ documenter of Department of Public Works injustices in the early morning dark.

The last time I saw Will was a couple weeks before his retirement. I was getting ready to head to Egypt. He was looking forward to being in the COH office just as a volunteer, and was strategizing about the kind of work he could do to improve shelter access.

I wish he’d got to do that work. But the work he *did* do has made San Francisco better, has kept people inside, and has kept a spirit of resistance alive in our community.

— Bob Offer-Westort

After decades of service to impoverished and homeless San Franciscans, Will Daley led the campaign to create a restorative justice program within our homeless shelter system. Rather than punitive, harsh treatment for reactionary behavior in a shelter, Will believed those affected and those who perpetrated any harm should be allowed an opportunity to discuss, openly and safely, their experience. This sharing and bonding aims to restore a sense of justice for all involved, leading to healthier and safer shelters.

This inspiration was the result of a culmination of years working within the Coalition on Homelessness as a Shelter Client Advocate. In San Francisco’s homeless shelters, residents have the right to due process and representation when they are forced out onto our streets. Will served as this representation. An impassioned advocate, Will would work as hard as possible for each client, never shying away from an argument with shelter management for a deserving client. The sense of justice he had was unwavering, no matter who the person was he represented. Many clients have recollected their experience with Will as witnesses to a true pillar of support for them when they needed it most. His efforts spread to outreach to tent encampments, supporting vulnerable San Franciscans exposed to the elements and living unsheltered.

Will’s contact with the Coalition came when he began working at Hamilton Family Shelter as a Residential Counselor. Here he worked directly with families sleeping on nightly beds with several to a room. Despite the insecurity and desperation of having a family without housing, Will made strong bonds he made with countless families residing at the shelter. Even years later walking through the Tenderloin, families would stop Will to catch up and hear about his life, eager to always explain their successes to someone who actually cared.

Even with his job and volunteering efforts, Will still found time to serve as a member of the Shelter Monitoring Committee. Using his knowledge of what was faced in our shelter system, he inspected the conditions of the facilities and spoke to clients about treatment and living conditions. Many hours were spent after work visiting shelters, sitting down with clients, and voicing their concerns to management and City officials.

—Nick Kimura


Destroying Angel (Amanita bisporigera)

      for my brother Bill/Will Daley

In the drab morning light,

they will complain only to you.

Spreadeagled on the Tenderloin

sidewalks, riffing and nattering

in the strangely clear light of November,

now the dislodged persons

raise their chins to note

that the papers have been signed

to consign you to the fire.

They have no spoons to cook

the horse that trotted

off with their dismay,

but they know that in the backrooms

of your bleakness, there was always

a way for you to give them that limpid

stare, to say, I know your frenzy,

I smell your despair. I have walked

through the blue and unconscionable dawns

like you, tentless, deciding to eat the mushrooms

whether they were poisonous or not.

Tom Daley