Arnett Watson, a passionate and articulate advocate for homeless people and tireless worker for social justice, died unexpectedly September 28th in San Francisco of a cerebral aneurysm. She was 49 years old.
Born in Detroit, Michigan to a Chrysler factory worker and a housewife, Watson lost both parents by age 25. A short but strongboned woman with gleaming charcoal-colored skin and unflinching eyes, Arnett moved to San Francisco in late 1982, where became homeless for a time in the mid-1980s.
In 1988, while she was a tenant at one of the City’s first transitional housing programs for homeless people, Arnett began a career as an ardent spokesperson for social justice that would continue uninterrupted until her death.
While working as an organizer at the Coalition on Homelessness, Arnett helped create an innovative fair hearing process for homeless shelter residents that became a national model. For more than a decade, Arnett was lead staff for the city-funded, community-driven initiative to ensure due process protections for homeless individuals and families living in shelters. Working with public interest attorneys, advocates, and social workers, Arnett helped develop a creative mediation/conflict resolution training for shelter staff, advocates, and city workers.
Arnett touched the lives of hundreds of homeless people in her work, and earned the respect of colleagues and adversaries alike because of her commitment to fairness for all people and her unskakeable integrity. She leaves an impressive body of work as advocate, mentor, advisor, and teacher, having influenced dozens of emerging leaders in the struggle for social and economic justice.
Arnett is survived by two sisters, Patricia Watson and Susan Watson of Detroit, two aunts, Hattie McGee and Hazel Nelson, and several nieces and nephews.
Arnett’s body was flown back to Detroit, Michigan, where her family held a private funeral service on October 7th at the James H.
Cole Funeral Home, 2624 W. Grand Ave. A special memorial service was also held in San Francisco on October 10th at St. Boniface Church, 133 Golden Gate Ave.
In lieu of flowers, donations for burial expenses can be sent in care of the Coalition on Homelessness. Please specify Arnett Watson on your donation. Thank you.