He Died Homeless in City Where He Was Once Mayor

'New York Times' explores sad trajectory of Craig Coyner in Bend, Oregon
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 7, 2023 1:25 PM CDT
He Died Homeless in City Where He Was Once Mayor
The late Craig Coyner.   (YouTube/KGW)

In February of this year, a 75-year-old homeless man died in Bend, Oregon. It had been a particularly brutal winter for Craig Coyner: At least one of his toes had to be amputated because of frostbite, and after that operation he suffered a stroke that left him unable to speak. However, the reason Coyner's death is the subject of a lengthy story in the New York Times isn't solely because of his end-of-life plight. It's because Coyner had once served as mayor in the same city where he died homeless. In fact, after his 1984 election, Coyner's policies helped turn Bend into one of the fastest-growing cities in the US, writes Mike Baker. After his stint as mayor, Coyner returned to his career as a lawyer, specifically as a well-respected public defender.

So what happened? A combination of awful circumstances: mental illness, alcoholism, and sky-high housing prices that eventually made it impossible for Coyner to have a place to live. "The underlying problem was an emerging bipolar disorder," writes Baker, one that caused Coyner's behavior to become abusive and erratic in the courtroom and led to his firing around the year 2000. The mental illness was "compounded because he had turned to drinking as a way to cope." The downward spiral included run-ins with police, the death of his wife, estrangement from his siblings, and foreclosure on his house. One late bright spot was a chance reunion with his grown daughter, whom he hadn't since she was a girl. "If he had been a dog, she said, somebody would have rescued him long ago," writes Baker. Read the full story. (Or read other longform stories.)

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