A heartbreaking portrait of one man’s rise and fall, from Terence McCoy in The Washington Post:
In a city with thousands of homeless people, [Alfred] Postell may be the District’s most academically distinguished. Diplomas, awards and certificates clutter a closet at his mother’s apartment, buried artifacts of a lost life. He holds three degrees: one in accounting, one in economics, and one in law. On a summer evening, he sits inside a McDonald’s on 17th Street NW, a white towel wrapped around his head like a turban. Listening to him talk about his life is like dive-bombing into a dream. Everything at first sounds normal. But things quickly fall into disorder. The chronology hiccups. Incongruous thoughts collide. “Charleston,” he says, “I owned property there, in the city proper. The cotton fields were past the city limits. The cotton fields: They were past the city limits. I picked cotton once in my life. But the cotton fields were past the city limits. I lived within the city. We had property there. We inherited the property. Shortly thereafter, I drove to San Diego, California. I was in love with a girl.” But these pronouncements always arc back to a single idea. It anchors Postell in the turbulent waters of his schizophrenia. Postell, he tells himself and others, is an educated man. He worked hard. He did right.
But what happened? Read it all.So often, we see men like this on the street and step over them, or walk around them, or cross to a corner to avoid them. We never know where they come from. But this story reminds us they have histories and hopes—people who loved them and lost them. No one just ends up living on the streets. They have a story to tell.
Pray for them. What happened to them could happen to many of us.