I heard this morning that Karen Ott Avery has died. She often used the Pooh Bear as her facebook picture. She was the associate Director at Independence First, a non profit organization serving people with disabilities. I interned at IF wile pursuing my degree in Human Services at Milwaukee Area technical College.
Karen had a wonderful sense of human and was a strong advocate for the people she served. I remember being grilled by her and Brian Peters about the supported housing model that was being developed across Milwaukee. They had a lot of concerns about what was created because it was not “housing first” oriented.
Housing first puts the needs of the person first before looking at whether the person has case management or other services.
Karen was also a mother and she lived to see her son graduate from UWM and go on to enter the world of work. She could be a taskmaster. I remember reading about her efforts to get her ex-husband moved. Karen was a Facebook friend and I recalled seeing stories about her other friends. Karen was a person living with a mental disability and she pushed her organization to become more involved. It was during a time when more opportunities were being created for certified peer specialists.
Most of all, she was Pooh. Posting pictures of animals, fighting for justice and caring for family. And now Pooh has left the building. I will miss you.
Aftr I wrote the above, I learned that Karen’s had died in her sleep, and had struggled with health problems. She had left IndependenceFirst and was struggling to find a new direction. Some passion to become excited about. For a while, I almost did not believe she was gone. And then I saw the death notice from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. A lot of people wrote on Facebook about Karen and one of her old friends responded to the blog. I will go to the farewell tomorrow.