Street-Wise Advocate: Can’t End Homelessness Without Assertive Interventions


“It is impossible to talk about people with severe, untreated, mental illness without talking about homelessness.”   Gunther Stern

I followed Gunther Stern for several days as he walked Georgetown streets helping homeless, often psychotic men and women, and I was deeply touched by his compassion. His testimony before the House Energy and Commerce subcommitte last week gave a human face to our failure to help individuals with mental disorders and co-occurring problems.

Greg was once a gifted constitutional lawyer who delighted his children with his dry wit. They were in their late teens when he began to show the signs of

what would become a profoundly disabling bipolar disorder. Not long after, he disappeared. He would call occasionally on a birthday or out of the blue for no reason. His kids tried so hard to keep up with him. They wanted desperately to make him whole again but it was futile. Greg drifted from city to city around the country, ending up in our  center and ultimately in our small shelter one winter eight years ago. Greg was a delight some of the time. His thick southern drawl and witty conversation would enchant volunteers, but other times he was withdrawn and surly.  
In January of 2006 Greg became sick. We encouraged him to go to the hospital and he said that he would. Instead he disappeared. A week later I received a call from the medical examiner’s office. They needed a body identified. It was Greg.

You can watch Gunther Stern’s five minute testimony above or read it by clicking here.

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.