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What Robin Williams Told the Senate About Homelessness What Robin Williams Told the Senate About Homelessness

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What Robin Williams Told the Senate About Homelessness

"Putting a Band-Aid on a very gaping wound" is not enough to stop homelessness, the actor testified.


Robin Williams on May 9, 1990, at a Senate committee hearing on the Homelessness Prevention and Revitalization Act, with Whoopi Goldberg. Williams, an Oscar-winning actor and comedian, was found dead at his home in California from suspected suicide, police said on Aug. 12, 2014.(KEVIN LARKIN/AFP/Getty Images)

In real life, Robin Williams rarely dropped his public persona as a wide-eyed crazy guy who just wanted to make you laugh. But when he did, it was worth watching. 

In a stunning moment of candor, Williams testified before the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee in 1990 in support of the Homelessness Prevention and Community Revitalization Act, which sought to direct funding to housing-based support centers for the chronically homeless and to boost mental-health services. (A related bill became law later that year.)


Robin Williams Testifies Before Senate In 1990
Actor and comedian Robin Williams hoped to "truly prevent homelessness" when he addressed a Senate panel in 1990. (C-SPAN)

Nervously rocking back and forth and impulsively cracking jokes along the way, Williams speaks from the heart, telling Sens. Edward Kennedy and Orrin Hatch that "putting a Band-Aid on a very gaping wound" is not enough to stop homelessness.



He continues:

The problem cannot be denied anymore. We cannot be a kinder, blinder nation. We must look, and you have to see it, and it's there.... I do believe this can work in an incredible way, from a grassroots level, that the money can get to that and prevent, truly prevent, homelessness. That's where it lies. You can't keep picking people up, you have to stop them from falling. That's what I hope. Thank you.

Actor and comedian Williams died from an apparent suicide Monday. He was 63. 

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