Greg Horan, who once slept on the streets of St. Paul before becoming a relentless advocate for homeless people in the Twin Cities, died of a heart attack Monday while on his way to a meeting on helping to fight homelessness.
He was 60.
"He was a one-man armada to create awareness and services for people who are homeless and in poverty," said Bert Byfield, a St. Paul social worker. "His authenticity was so powerful. His passion was so powerful."
Horan grew up in Pennsylvania, where he graduated from college, taught high school English and started a family. Then the death of his 11-year-old daughter Nicole from leukemia put him into reverse, he told the Star Tribune in 1995.
He lost his job, his marriage and his mental health. In 1991, he was hit by a truck as he crossed a street in Indiana. After a long recovery, he drifted, coming to St. Paul in 1992.
He slept outside for a few weeks and checked into St. Paul's Gospel Mission while he worked temporary jobs.
Several months later, he started a little half-sheet newspaper, "The Way Life Is, Street Views from Downtown St. Paul." He wrote much of it, but homeless people and others submitted poems, essays and stories.
It didn't take long before he was organizing and leading help groups, urging legal aid attorneys and social workers to help fight homelessness.
"He roped many into getting things done, and to do good for people who were disadvantaged," said Laura Melnick, a St. Paul legal aid lawyer.
He was "sharp" and "funny," she said. About a week ago, he told Melnick excitedly that he had become a finalist for the TV game show, "Jeopardy."
In the mid-1990s, he was hired to work on Project HOPE: Homeless Outreach, Prevention and Education. With others, he helped more than 500 people find housing in the project's first nine months.
Jim Anderson, planning specialist for homeless services in Ramsey County, said Horan had high expectations of government officials.
"We owe Greg a deep debt of gratitude on that issue, and so many others," said Anderson.
Horan either founded or led many organizations, such as Twin Cities Community Voice Mail, so homeless people could leave a phone number for potential employers and landlords.
Horan also was a leader in the Minnesota Justice Foundation, which promotes free legal work by attorneys. And for the past 10 years, he led the St. Paul Area Coalition for the Homeless.
In 1996, the McKnight foundation gave him the Virginia Binger Award. He also received a National Coalition for the Homeless award.
He had no immediate surviving family members.
Services will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Assumption Catholic Church, 51 W. 7th St., St. Paul. Visitation will be at 9 a.m. at the church.