After 10 years of living on the streets in Oakland, California, Greg Dunston and Marie Mckinzie have a new normal thanks to a generous Bay Area homeowner who wanted to improve their lives and share the message that homelessness is not “contagious.” The pair now live in a $4 million mansion in the upper-class East Bay neighborhood of Piedmont with Terry McGrath, who was determined to commit a simple act of kindness after a story was published about them in the San Francisco Chronicle.
When asked if they were worried about adjusting to life in a house, Mckinzie said “absolutely not.” “I don’t want to live on the streets. A lot of people do, but I want to get in,” she added.
“I love to cook a lot so I wanted a kitchen, bed and shower.” “We wanted to do that,” Dunston said about moving into McGrath’s home. “There are a lot of people out on the streets but they have no choice.”
But their “moving on up” tale of humanity was initially met with both positive and negative attention from local reporters and nearby residents. One neighbor who was unaware of the situation called 911 and told dispatchers, “I just pulled into the driveway and there’s some strange folks hanging around the house.” Another called Piedmont Cop and Dispatch, saying, “I just wanted to notify you that this woman is sitting at Lexford and Hampton … She’s smoking a — could be substance.”
The couple has put a face on the growing homeless trouble in San Francisco.The city by the bay is the wealthiest in the nation with more billionaires per capita than any other city in the country, according to the Wealth-X Billionaire Census 2019. San Francisco’s homeless population has also hit a record high, with nearly 8,000 people living on the street and in their cars.Otis Taylor, a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle who writes about homelessness in the Bay Area, has detailed the glaring disparity between the density of wealth and those who have little to nothing.
“You have people able to purchase multimillion-dollar homes in cash and then you have people who don’t even have enough money to eat on a daily basis. Who sleep in the same clothes in rags, they sleep in doorways and parking lots next to dumpsters,” Taylor told ABC News.When he first met Dunston, who is blind in one eye, and Mckinzie, who has a bone disease that makes it difficult to stand or walk, Taylor said they weren’t bitter despite any of their disabilities.