Harvard Law classmates reunite from both sides of the bench

WASHINGTON — An ordinary case of trespassing has exposed a local man’s unlikely journey from Harvard to homelessness.

In D.C. Superior Court, a judge recognized his former law school classmate, a homeless man who was charged with unlawful entry.

He was Alfred Postell, who graduated from Harvard Law School in 1979. His graduating class included Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and former U.S. senator Russ Feingold.

A graduate of the District’s Coolidge High School, Postell earned three advanced degrees in accounting, economics and law. He’s spent the past 30 years living with relatively untreated psychosis.

A schizophrenia diagnosis helped explain Postell’s decline in circumstances to his baffled family.

“He was living the rich life,” one relative tells the Washington Post. “Then he just all of a sudden, he bugged out.”

“Mental illness doesn’t discriminate,” Richard BeBout, the CEO of Green Door, tells WTOP. He says his organization and Pathways to Housing are working with Postell to give him opportunities to help him transition out of homelessness.

Those groups help homeless people make the transition to housing. Instead of requiring certain conditions and terms for admission, clients are offered housing that comes with optional support services if they can pay rent.

BeBout is optimistic about Postell’s future, despite what he’s been through.

“He can be helped into housing and into better psychiatric stabilization,” he says.

BeBout hopes the publicity on Postell’s situation helps erase the stigma of mental illness. He also hopes it may help young people get access to much more aggressive and more effective treatment sooner.

“That really changes the progression their entire life of an illness like this,” BeBout says.

In June, Postell was acquitted of the unlawful entry charge that took him before his former classmate in D.C. Superior Court. Postell now spends a lot of time loitering outside a building on 17th Street Northwest near Farragut Square.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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