Couple moves from streets into $4 million home, bringing attention to homelessness

After spending 10 years on the streets of Oakland, California, a local real estate developer changed Marie Mckinzie and her partner, Greg Dunston's lives after reading their story in a local paper.
7:53 | 06/26/19

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Transcript for Couple moves from streets into $4 million home, bringing attention to homelessness
Two minutes, about two minutes. Reporter: For Greg dunsten and Marie Mckinzie, the daily commute feels a lot different these days. We get the bus to go get something to eat. Reporter: You see, after ten years of living on the street. That's it. Reporter: They're finally going home. Did you worry at all about leaving the street to go live in a house? No. I like to cook a lot. So I wanted a kitchen and a bed and a shower. Reporter: And it is some home. A $4 million mansion in one of the bay area's most exclusive neighborhoods that they share with a generous owner, determined to commit a simple act of kindness. A homeless couple has a place to live. He's opened his home. It's not going over too well with his neighbors. Reporter: But the tale of humanity did not come without a bit of attention. Police and fire. I'm a neighbor on Hampton road, I just pulled in the driveway, and there's some kind of strange folk hanging around the house. I just wanted to notify you there's a woman sitting at lexford and Hampton. She's smoking a cigarette and a pipe. Reporter: Once on the sidelines, just another homeless couple, they're now at the center of San Francisco's homeless crisis, a symbol that something must be done. An insight into the huge disparity between the nation's haves and have-nots. The city by the bay is the wealthiest in the nation, more billionaires per capita than any other city in the country. Its homeless population now at a record high. About 8,000 living on the street and in their cars. You have people able to purchase multi-million dollar homes in cash, and then you have people who don't even have enough money to eat. Reporter: Otis Taylor writes about the homeless for the San Francisco chronicle. He met Greg and Marie and learned that neither fit a blanket stereotype we often presume. Neither is an alcoholic or drug addict. Neither is mentally ill. Greg is blind in one eye. Marie has a disease that makes standing and walking difficult, neither is bitter. They were still pleasant. They were still engaged with meeting people, and they still had love for each other through it all. That bond. Reporter: Maintaining what Taylor calls a vibrancy of life that he wrote about in the paper. The paper this man reads. Terry mcfwrath. He owns that big house in the hills above the bay. A real estate developer, a divorced empty nester with nothing but space on his property and in his heart. The thing that struck me, I mean 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. Reporter: He met with Otis and the couple in a cafe. There was no thought, no judgment. It was just like this is done. I didn't vet them. I mean, these are human beings. They want to get in out of the wet weather. They want a roof over their head. We're so happy that we, that Terry, that he was willing to take completely strangers like you don't find them, a person with a heart like his. Reporter: Terry Mcgrath offered them the in-law unit in his house. His kids had grown-up. Relatives had lived there before, an intern had, too. So he wrote the Piedmont police chief an e-mail. He let me know he was opening his home to some folks. Reporter: So when the 911 calls started coming in, the chief had already counseled his officers. We want to get what is somebody doing that necessitates us getting involved. Reporter: And if it had been white people in that house he would have responded the same way? Yes, yes. Piedmont is 74. Announcer: White, 18% Asian, less than 2% black. You have two black people sitting on the steps. You have homeowners looking out the window. That is unheard of. Reporter: They didn't call the police on your other tenants. I got a call, 9:30 at night on my cell phone. Couple minutes into it, I realized when she mentioned the word situation she was referencing Marie and Greg. And I said what situation? Are they vandalizing cs? Are they burglarizing homes? I just said this is one of the most offensive conversations I've ever had. Reporter: For Terry, it was simple. Despite the complaints of a few neighbors, it was his house. There was room. Our natural tendency is to move away from that kind of pain. Reporter: That's why we avert our eyes when we walk by. That's why we avert our eyes. That's why they become part of the background, part of the wallpaper. It's easy to move past it. We've become numb to the despair and plight of others who are obviously suffering. Reporter: Then there is the juxtaposition that is San Twitter, here down below, pedestrians dance around caps, blue ones, that signify they were covering syringe needles. When you walk down the street, especially at the beginning of your term it bothered you, too. First of all, I was born and raised in San Francisco. It always bothered me. Reporter: Mayor London breed ran on a program to fix the problem, even proposing a new shelter, one that allows daytime stays and offers safer conditions and on-site programs to be built not out of sight but all around San Francisco in every neighborhood. You can't be upset about homelessness, and then when I propose a real solution that's going to make a difference then you're upset about it. Reporter: We don't want to see them on the streets, but at the same time we don't want them in our neighborhood. But people aren't just going to disappear because we don't want to see them. And that's why we need solutions. We can't just do what we've done in the past. And that is move people to the next community, to the next community, to the next community. She's my hero. I mean, here's a mayor, in the most liberal city, arguably, probably in the United States. She's in the honeymoon phase of the mayoral term, and she's getting shouted down, because she wants to build affordable housing in the neighborhoods. It's unconscionable. They want it handled. But they don't want it handled in their neighborhoods. Reporter: But as the mayor says, it's not going to go away because we don't want to see it. No. Reporter: Terry Mcgrath brought homelessness a little closer, to his own home. He knows it's not a universal solution. But feels it might inspire others not to look away so much. And, on a personal level, although he knows the odds are against them, his hope is that Greg and Marie struggle somehow back to their feet, find jobs and get out on their own. Let me ask a tough question. What if they've got to go back to the street again? They're like family. There's no way I'm going to let them go back on the street. But as most people who know me well know it's easy to start. It's hard to finish. And I'm never not going to finish. Reporter: For "Nightline," I'm Jim Avila in San Francisco.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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