Pat Morgan is a self-confessed political junkie and “Arkansas Traveler” veteran of the Clinton for President, and Clinton-Gore campaigns. She is also a mostly unsuccessful political candidate (won 1, lost 2), a former elected official in county government, an unabashed policy wonk, and relentless (ask anybody who knows her) advocate for effective services, especially mental health care, and housing for homeless people.
She is also an expert on the subject, having received numerous awards, including the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness’ 2006 Innovation Award (in a Republican administration) for her contributions to ending chronic homelessness. Learning enough to be an expert on homelessness, she says, might have been deadly dull if she hadn’t learned her most important lessons from listening to hundreds of “street people” with “staggering levels of disabilities” and battling to secure the services and housing that would help them break the cycle of streets, shelters, hospitals and jails.
A real estate broker and former banker (occupations not necessarily noted for altruism), Pat answered the call from the concrete killing fields of homelessness—found her calling—and lived out her dreams.
It’s been a “wildly improbable ride,” she says, one that has taken her from the cotton fields and dusty streets of a tiny town in Arkansas to the Street Ministry in the heart of the concrete killing fields of Memphis, Tennessee to the highest level of federal policy making in the nation’s capital.
Totally frustrated with the lack of resources for homeless people, and deeply concerned at the rising body count from the concrete killing fields, Pat resigned as the unpaid director of The Street Ministry and enrolled in RhodesCollege “mostly to get the credentials to go with what I’d already learned so I’d have a more credible voice in developing policies.” She already had a degree from the “school of hard knocks,” having graduated magna cum laude in “street smarts.” Luckily, her three grown, independent, sons were supportive (after she promised not to go out for cheerleader), especially after she was selected (at age 50) by TIME Magazine as a “Rising Star,” one of “20 Outstanding College Juniors in America. Being featured in TIME led to a Washington Semester in American Politics at AmericanUniversity, and an internship in the office of then-Senator Al Gore, for whom she’d campaigned when he’d sought the Democratic nomination for president in 1988.
But it was her long-standing, rock-solid support of then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton that would result in a presidential appointment to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, then a working group of the White House Domestic Policy. That would come after she’d tromped through the snowy streets of New Hampshire, worked days, nights and weekends at the Washington Operations Office, and then organized and directed the Office of Presidential Correspondence at the Office of Presidential Transitions. Throughout it all, she was driven by the memories of the “street people” she’d loved and lost to the concrete killing fields and those still most at-risk.
An engaging, experienced public speaker with a refreshing sense of humor to balance the seriousness of her work, Pat is available for speaking engagements, short-term consulting, and even shorter advice by email.
Not only is it a terrific analysis of the homeless phenomenon in the United States told by one of the country’s foremost authorities on the subject, but it is also a testament to her marvelous life dedicated to this issue. From a small town in Arkansas she ended up as a USICH Analyst and Special Assistant to HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo throughout the Clinton Administration. – Marc Pohlmann, Ph.D.