Homelessness is a problem that often strains Erie’s ability to care for some of its most vulnerable people.

Organizations dedicated to helping the homeless are kept alive by volunteers who refuse to look away. One remarkable woman, in particular, has taken that work to a new level. She sees the people who are invisible to so many others.

Colleen Hammon has made it her life’s work, her mission to help Erie’s homeless. She calls them “heroes” for what they endure.

“If I had this kind of trauma, I’d be curled up on the corner of 12th & State streets and would probably never move. But they get up every day and set about trying to make something for themselves.  So, I think they are everyday heroes themselves,” said Colleen Hammon, Remarkable Woman winner.

Hammon retired after 32 years in the mental health field, but couldn’t forget what she had seen.

In retirement, she serves on numerous boards but feels her real calling is to walk with people in real need. That means sitting down with them where they are — shelters, soup kitchens or on the street. 

Hammon also started a clinic, meeting face-to-face with the homeless with the goal to get a roof over their head, clothing, food, COVID vaccines or whatever she can get for them.

“Everybody deserves a place to be. We’re not saying that everybody wants to be in someplace fancy.  They’re just looking for a place to be safe, a place where your basic needs can be met. It doesn’t seem like that much to ask, does it?” Hammon added.

“Colleen Hammon is a remarkable woman because she is one of Erie’s hidden gems,” said Betsy Weist, nominated Colleen.

Betsy Weist is the director of Saint Patrick Haven, a homeless shelter in Erie. 

For years, she has seen firsthand the difference Colleen is making in reaching a segment of the population that too often slips through the cracks.

“These are people who are on the street all day and people walk by them and pretend they don’t exist because they might have to acknowledge there’s a problem.  They might have to do something. Colleen doesn’t do that. She does something,” Weist added.

Hammon shows no signs of slowing down, not as long as there are people in need on the streets of Erie.  But remarkably, Hammon will tell you she’s getting at least as much as she’s giving — the poorest leaving her with some of her richest memories.

“I’ve had people who don’t have a nickel say ‘can I buy you a coffee? You helped me, can a buy you some coffee?’ I just think it’s been an awesome adventure and a wonderful opportunity for me, too,” said Hammon.

Congratulations and thank you Colleen Hammon, Erie’s truly remarkable woman for 2023.