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.

A file picture taken on May 9, 1990 in Washington, shows US actor Robin Williams (L) speaking at a Senate committee hearing on the Homelessness Prevention and Revitalization Act of 1990, next to US actress Whoopi Goldberg (R). Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams was found dead at his home in California from suspected suicide, police said on August 12, 2014.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
Aug. 12, 2014, 5:16 a.m.

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.)

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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.