The Story of Gregory Hirlinger
Greg grew up in Arizona! Born in the 60’s to a woman that was a child herself, on her own, and suffered from Mental Health issues. Her mental health/illness/disorder was something that, back then, people would “not talk” about. Medication was not as advanced as it is today, so many folks turned to “self-medicating” or just pushed through it.
During the late 60’s and early 70’s the world was dealing with political, social, and economical struggles…Viet Nam, Gas shortages, Watergate, Space race, and the beginning of the “Cold War”. This was also a time of bumper stickers with “Peace” signs; “Make Love Not War”; and “Impeach Nixon”. Music was inspiring the youth to stand-up to “THE MAN”!
One of Greg’s earliest memory is waking up in an early 1961 Plymouth Valiant somewhere along the side of the highway in New Mexico on a trip back to Arizona. His mother was sobbing uncontrollably and stopped next to a fruit vendor. She exited the vehicle, went to the vendor, while the little boy sat and watched. The vendor helped and they traveled for, what seemed like days but had Peaches to eat.
Over the next 10+ years his mother had dated and married a few people. One of the men she married gave him two younger brothers. Jacob, 7-yrs younger and Chad, 8-yrs younger. Greg felt that it was his responsibility to help protect these little guys because his mother was struggling with her mental health issues and had multiple failed relationships and had frequently abandoned the boys at family homes or the Crisis Nursery. Greg was constantly worrying for her safety and the safety of him and his brothers.
It was a family of four, three small boys and a single mother…They had lived in cars; motels; tents; low income housing; a church basement; anywhere that would let the family in.
Greg and his brothers were outcasts and had to defend for themselves whenever they attended a new school…It was embarrassing for him and his brothers to go to school because they literally had only a couple pairs of pants and shirts… kids are cruel. Many times, Greg would not eat lunch because he was embarrassed to get in the “free lunch” line. He and his brothers learned really quick the definition of prejudice, and how you had to “blend-in” in order to not get beat up. He attended a total of 24 schools, including 3 high schools all in Arizona.
At the age of 14 his Mother introduced a new man into his life, which was his soon-to-be stepfather (BTW, this is “Dad” number 4). The step-father, named Bob, was different from the “other” men, he was a hard worker, amazing artist, served three tours in Vietnam, and built a house large enough to take the family of four and combine with his family of three…Bob had a Son and Daughter.
From that point on, Greg was no longer the boy that smelled from not bathing, but a boy starting to find his confidence and courage. All of a sudden Holiday’s were something to look forward to…Let that sink in for a second!
Bob was a HUGE mentor, friend, and Hero to Greg; and helped him get work in order to pay for his own College education. Greg vowed that he would do everything possible to assist other homeless kids like he and his brothers.
Gregory Hirlinger was not proud of his name and what it represented, so before graduating from college, he legally changed it to “Karl Gregory Obergh”…
Karl Gregory Obergh now serves as the Chair of CASS’ Board of Directors (2019-2020) and is an advocate for preventing and ending homelessness.
Central Arizona Shelter Services
230 S. 12th Avenue
Phoenix AZ 85007
PO Box 18250
Phoenix AZ 85005
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