After moving into the mansion, the couple faced scrutiny from neighbors, with some calling the police due to misunderstanding.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on July 21, 2023. It has since been updated.
For over ten years Greg Dunston and his partner Marie Mckinzie were among thousands of people experiencing homelessness in Oakland. One day their lives changed when they ended up staying in a nearly $4 million property in one of the Bay Area's most exclusive neighborhoods in Piedmont. Millionaire Terry McGrath invited them to stay with him in his home in 2019.
McGrath had read about the couple's story in the San Francisco Chronicle. Journalist Otis R. Taylor Jr. simply, put forth the question to McGrath, a real estate developer and investor, as to why he'd let people off the street live with him. "It's helped bring me back to my roots as a young kid," he told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I cannot avoid the responsibility I have to live around me. I have a personal obligation to take responsibility when I see injustices. And to me, this is a clear injustice."
McGrath hopes society will see people living on the streets as human beings before anything else. "I don't think there's any other issue that is more symbolic about who we are as a society than this issue," McGrath said. "It's an absolute reflection of us. There is no other way to see it. Just because it's there doesn't make it right or make it acceptable."
After moving into the mansion, the couple did face scrutiny with neighbors even calling the cops. One person, who was unaware of the situation, told dispatchers, "I just pulled into the driveway and there are some strange folks hanging around the house," according to ABC News. Another called Piedmont Police and Fire Dispatch, saying, "I just wanted to notify you that this woman is sitting at Lexford and Hampton. She's smoking a cigarette -- could be drugs."
Taylor spoke to the outlet revealing that the couple in their 50s and 60s remain positive despite the hardships they endured all their life. "They were still engaged with meeting people and they still had a love for each other through it all that bond," he said, highlighting that the duo had what he called a "vibrancy of life." McGrath echoed the sentiments. "The thing that struck me and got me right away was the love between Greg and Marie and how it was able to survive in probably one of the harshest environments on earth," McGrath explained. "I could feel it."
Millionaire Invites Homeless Couple To Live With Him In His $4 Million Mansion: For a decade, Greg Dunston and Marie Mckinzie lived on the streets of San Francisco’s Oakland suburb before they finally found a home in the most unlikely place. A… https://t.co/sZfNL0vI0N pic.twitter.com/MX04Ciesm5— Neurominds (@neurominds) October 8, 2020
The divorced founder of McGrath Properties met with the journalist and couple in a cafe and was touched by their story. "There was no decision, there was no thought, there was no judgment. I was just like 'this is done,'" Taylor recalled. "I didn't vet them. These are human beings and they're not serial killers. They want to get in out of the weather. They want a roof over their head. They want to be warm." This story is a reminder that individual acts of kindness go a long way.