Friends Association Observes MLK Day with Panel Discussion

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The outline of a house with a setting sun
Image via Friends Association

The Friends Association, working to help local families and individuals experiencing homelessness, has lined up three activities in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 16.

Friends is hosting a Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Action Community Conversation panel discussion, “Housing Is Healthcare.”

The discussion via Zoom will take place between 9 and 10 AM.  You can register to join the Zoom panel discussion here, or visit the Friends Association website.

Friends Association CEO Jennifer Lopez will moderate the panel.

Panelists include Dr. Karen Maxwell Hudson, program leader for the Homeless Health Initiative from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Bobby Watts, CEO of The National Health Care for the Homeless Council; and a woman who will offer a first-hand perspective as someone experiencing homelessness who now has housing stability thanks to case management and other services provided by Friends Association.

Coinciding with the panel discussion is an MLK Donation Drive.

Donated items being collected for families in need include pillows, laundry detergent, pot and pan sets, laundry detergent, and paper products.

Community members are also encouraged to develop a piece of art that demonstrates their interpretation of the phrase, “Home Is Where the Heart Is.”

The art will be showcased in the Friends offices through Jan. 30, 2023.

Stop by the offices at Friends Association, 113 W. Chestnut Street in West Chester Jan. 16 between 9 AM and 3 PM to drop off artwork and donations.

About the panelists

Moderator Jennifer Lopez has been the executive director at Friends Association since January 2019.  She has over 30 years of experience in strategic and organizational management focusing on creating, implementing and improving programs for marginalized individuals.

She has served the Chester County Community as the deputy chief of probation, parole and pretrial services, administering trauma-informed programs for over 10,000 individuals.

Dr. Karen M. Hudson, PhD, MSW, LSW has been honored locally and nationally for being a strong advocate to eliminate health disparities that affect children and families experiencing homelessness.  She is also a mentor to those families and a teacher to healthcare providers in training. 

 She has built community partnerships that promote health equity and reduce health disparities as she works with vulnerable children, families and communities. She is an adjunct professor at West Chester University and has presented her work at numerous local, regional, national and international conferences on homelessness, parenting and cultural diversity.

Dr. Hudson has been nominated as a National Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leader and has received numerous awards for her work.

Bobby Watts, MPH, MS has been the CEO of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council since March 2017. He was born under Jim Crow laws in North Carolina and raised in inner-city Brooklyn by his mother, a teacher and HBCU graduate and has a keen awareness and interest in issues of racial justice.

In college, he was the co-founder and chair of a student group which funded educational and cultural events put on by the Black, Latinx, Native American and Asian student organizations.

Watts helped transform Care for the Homeless from a small program into a vibrant Federally Qualified Health Center, shelter and advocacy agency in New York City.

He helped create a platform at the agency to dismantle structures that resulted in inequity.

Watts is a 10-year member of the First Monday Collective, comprised of New York City nonprofit executives building antiracist practices in their agencies and the human services field.

He has served as the finance officer of the New York City HIV Health and Human Services Planning Council.

Watts served as a member of the Steering Committee of the New York City Medicaid Managed Care Task Force, developing safeguards for people experiencing homelessness under New York City’s Medicaid managed care program. 

Most recently, he served on the Biden-Harris Administration’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force and the Health Equity Workgroup of the Advisory Committee to the Director of the CDC. 

He has also served on the Board of the RCHN Foundation, the nation’s only foundation dedicated to supporting health centers and is the inaugural chair of the Nashville Homelessness Planning Council’s Equity and Diversity Committee.

Find out more about Martin Luther King Jr. Day events and about the Friends Association .

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