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Advocate for homeless dies at 61

Former pensions lawyer: Derrick Phipps

An advocate for the homeless who ran for councillor in this year’s municipal elections has died.

Derrick Phipps, a former pensions lawyer who slipped into drug addiction and ended up living on the streets until last year, was 61 years old.

Speaking to The Royal Gazette last year, Mr Phipps told of his struggles with substance abuse and turning his life around.

“Growing up in the inner city of New York and living in San Francisco, becoming a professional person as a lawyer, I never dreamed I would one day be homeless myself,” he said at that time. “Having had this experience and had a substance abuse problem, you learn first-hand about the different challenges and one of the things that I noticed personally was the fact that I didn’t know how and where to get help.”

Mr Phipps lived in Bermuda until he was about ten, when he moved to the US with his mother.

As an adult, he held down a successful career as a pensions lawyer and had a wife, from whom he is now divorced, and a son.

“I used to be a world-class runner in Bermuda too,” he said. “That’s how I got to college. I got married at Marylebone in London, where I did my internship. I have lived all over.”

But when he returned to the Island 13 years ago, he found himself unemployed and suffered with depression before, he said, self-medicating with cocaine.

However, after kicking his addiction and finding a place to live through the Salvation Army’s Harbour Light programme, the Warwick resident focused his energies on helping others who were living rough.

He became an advocate for the homeless and a member of City Hall’s Committee on Homelessness in the City of Hamilton.

In April this year, he announced his intentions to run for councillor in the municipal elections — although he did not win a seat, he received 58 votes.

After being re-elected, councillor RoseAnn Edwards, whom Mr Phipps described as a “friend and confidante”, said she was inspired by his “commitment to creating paths for others”.

“I have been inspired by Derrick Phipps, a former pensions lawyer who uses his brilliant mind to advocate for the homeless,” she stated in May.