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How a Harvard Law Grad Became Homeless
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Photo credit: Harvard Law School’s Facebook page

Summary: The Washington Post published a profile of Alfred Postell, a Harvard Law graduate who developed schizophrenia and is now homeless. The touching article is a reminder of how mental illness can strike anyone.

Alfred Postell often wanders the intersection of 17th and I streets in Washington, D.C. Back in April, Postell, a homeless man, was brought to a D.C. Superior Court, and he came face to face with Judge Thomas Motley.

  
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According to the Washington Post, Postell insisted that he was a lawyer, and this claim brought disbelief within the court. It was not until Postell said that he graduated from Harvard Law School in 1979 that Motley realized that the two of them had been classmates but had ended up in completely different directions.

Postell was the son of a seamstress and laborer. His mother, Ruth Priest, said that from a young age, he was ambitious. After earning an associates degree at Strayer College, he landed a $50,000 a year CPA position, but he wanted more. He graduated from the University of Maryland and then applied for Harvard Law School and was accepted.

Besides Motley, Postell was also in Harvard Law with Supreme Court Justice John Roberts and the NFL’s Executive Vice President of football operations Ray Anderson.

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Postell’s classmates remembered him as being well-dressed and a top student. Those who spoke to The Washington Post were surprised to hear what had happened to him. His post-Harvard career seemed promising until the schizophrenia seeped in.

After graduation, Postell took a job at the respected law firm, Shaw Pittman Potts & Trowbridge, and he was let go years later. Although those who worked with him wouldn’t talk about the termination, there are hints that his illness crept into his life during those years, causing him to withdraw.



And then Postell had a psychotic break. He lost not only his job but all his possessions.

In the almost 30 years since Postell graduated from Harvard Law, he has been mostly a ghost, wandering around unnoticed on the street, except for the handful of times he had been arrested for various criminal charges like petty theft.

While Motley and Roberts may have gone on to legal success, Postell’s mother is fighting to get him off the street. Green Door, a mental-illness center that works with the homeless, and Pathways to Housing, another organization that helps the homeless, is also working with him, a man who reminds us that mental illness can strike anyone from anywhere.

Read the entire story at The Washington Post: The homeless man who went to Harvard Law with John Roberts

Photo credit: Harvard Law School’s Facebook page



 

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