If you ever inquired how Sharon Jones was doing, the response would almost invariably be the same.
The slight woman, often wearing a beanie and a white Real Change T-shirt, would fix her warm eyes on you, smile a slow smile and say, “Blessed and well.”
Jones passed away at age 66 on Sunday, April 28. Her passing has left a hole in the Real Change community.
Jones, who earned the nickname “Ms. Real Change,” moved to Seattle from Washington D.C., to start life anew. She had struggled with drugs and alcohol for a time and attributed her ability to survive and thrive in her new home to her relationship with God.
“God must have opened up my eyes,” she told contributing writer Matt Tyksinksi in 2011. “God had to wake me up. If I didn’t believe in the Lord, I wouldn’t have made it this far.”
Jones never allowed that dark chapter to define her. She was a woman who radiated grace and cared deeply for her friends, her Real Change family, her customers and practically anyone she met.
Fighting the growing crisis of homelessness became her cause — she advocated at City Hall for better, more humane policies and took opportunities to engage people in conversation.
She also dreamed big. Jones had a plan for what she called The Greatest Love Homeless Ministry, a 1,238-bed facility of duplexes, a theater, a children’s center and office buildings built of logs that reminded her of log cabins she saw traveling with her father when he was in the Air Force.
Jones envisioned a self-managed community where residents cooked for one another and worked together to maintain the grounds. She built a model out of macaroni and glue on her kitchen table in her Federal Way apartment to demonstrate her idea, which was based on the “housing first” model.
Housing and relationships had helped her get clean, she reasoned. It could do the same for others. “Once you get them people in a place, I’m telling you, you don’t know what a change. Everything,” Jones said in a 2016 interview on KUOW. “They’re a human being again.”
That was Jones, a woman of vision rooted in her unflagging desire to help people. Wherever she is now, one thing is certain: Sharon Jones is blessed and well.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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