We connected with some amazing people from the Wayfarer 1:1 program to let them tell their own unique stories in their own words. By reading their stories, we hope that we find the compassion in our hearts to treat those experiencing homelessness with respect and love. Our Neighbors each have their journeys to share and we are so humbled that we get to tell the stories of amazing people to the world.
I’m Walter and I’m from the Long Beach area.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What brings you here?
I met Melvin [Wayfarer Foundation 1:1 Coordinator] and he’s working with me on some things and I met him at MHA and I was in a group of his on getting things together and getting resources and things like that.
What are the words you live by?
I just try to treat other people the way I want to be treated. But at the same time it doesn’t always work out that way so I just try to stay away from people sometimes.
I just try to treat other people the way I want to be treated.
What’s important to you?
The most important thing to me is my daughter. And my dog. My daughter has been through some stuff and I try to be there. And my dog has motivated me to get off the streets too because I’ve never felt a love like I do from my dog. They never judge you.
What are some things that helped you get off the streets?
There was a time I was laying on the streets on the concrete in the hot sun was coming up and I was thinking about my dog and my daughter and all the people who helped me along the way. Even the smallest things you try to be grateful for and just because I grew up in an environment where I didn’t feel cared for, doesn’t mean I should give up on myself. I was on the streets at 13 and I felt like I couldn’t love myself. And I needed to figure this out and I think that’s important. And there were a lot of people that helped — that helped give me hope. Seeing people get off the streets and stuff like that and have a better life– that gave me hope because I felt like there was no hope for me.
It’s great that you found support in community and organizations.
A lot of the organizations helped me out. And I was like, “Dam, why do they care for me more than I care for myself?” It’s like no matter how much they care for me, if I don’t care for myself, then I’m never going to get out of this situation that I’m in. It was all the compassion I received from other people that I never really had in my life. And a lot of it I chose similar people that I was trying to get away from. It was a subconscious thing that I wasn’t even conscious about. With a lot people out here, they’re not aware of their subconscious and the patterns, they just continue on. I’ve met a lot of good people out here. I’ve met people that are helpful, people that are compassionate. People seeing animals dying on the streets and try to help them out. And people just think that everybody out here is on drugs and never had a job and I worked since I was 13 and so all the judgement people give, it’s not all true.
What did you realize you needed to fix within to help get you off the streets?
I wasn’t really there for my kid when I was young because I was emotionally cut off. But until I could get in touch with my own emotions and allow myself to feel the full spectrum of emotions, I couldn’t feel it for other people too. So everything starts with the individual. I feel like society tries to tell you to live one way that to “be a man” you have to be this or be that. To me, to be a man means allowing yourself to feel your emotions. With no fear to overrule that or fear of other people’s judgements or fear of other people seeing you cry. You know, if you can’t feel those emotions then you’re numb.
What other things helped you along the way?
I feel like if it wasn’t for yoga or meditation, I would’ve never really been able to tap into a lot of different things in dealing with my own dark side of me. And being able to allow myself to be vulnerable and to feel all these things — it was just too much. But that helped me to stay grounded and to work to through things to where I might have turned to drugs this time around if I was on the streets.
That’s great that you managed to stay away from drugs. I grew up around a dope house when I was a kid and I always had a thing against people abusing kids. And I saw this guy come into the neighborhood and he was here buying drugs with a little kid. And to me, that stuck in my head. I was like, “Wow, this person just neglected their kid.” And I never wanted to do drugs because of that. Because I was neglected as a kid and I felt like that out on the streets. So that stuck in my head forever. So that was part of the reason I never turned to drugs. A lot of my friends, about 90% of people out here