A Journey of Healing: The Voices in Poverty Resist Series!

Tiny - Posted on 20 November 2012

Walter Fears

November 20th, 2012

In 2003, I suffered a work injury that left me immobilized for two years. During my hospitalization I was evicted. Upon release from the hospital I recuperated with family. But because I required 24-hour care, my family could no longer help me in my physical/mental state. I became homeless. Then I started getting arrested for being homeless. One night the police arrested me, bagged my head, and drove me to Skid Row.

I lived on the streets until I got really tired of the abuse, suffering, and my body's need to recover. I went out to the VA to get help and was told that because I didn’t have a drug problem I couldn’t qualify for services. I came back to Skid Row and commenced doing
every drug I could get my hands on (out of anger, not because I wanted to go back. It was like I said, “fuck it”).

Then one day I heard this brother playing the congas. On Skid Row! It was amazing to me! How this one drum seemed to hold sway amongst all the surrounding chaos. I knew then that was what I would be doing: healing. Not only myself, but more importantly others, through art. It was through painting, guitar, drums, sculpting, and music that brought me out of the state of mind I was in.

After my last jail stint I was ready. I wanted my life back so I checked into the VA and didn’t leave until almost two years later. This was almost unheard of but I needed the PTSD classes, I the one-on-one psychiatric meeting, the physical therapy, the tai chi, fishing, and surfing trips. All these things combined to give me that sense of purpose in my life. And that was to fight for the voiceless, sing for elders, and live for children.

Today I consider myself a positive member of a community trying to define itself in its own terms. This is a place of recovery, a place of healing. It is the phoenix rising from the ashes. It was in this place that I found my connection to people who were suffering like me,
and that in itself provided a healing connection. Though others are in different situations and stages, we are all in it together.

And that sense is what holds us together, good or bad, bad or worse; nobody, NOBODY gets left out or behind. After learning the VA system, I came back down to Skid Row, to live and fight for the peoples who call this place home. I don’t make a lot of money but I’m rich in
quality of life. My life’s work is to continue to speak out, to play my drums, to educate myself and others to the realities of the issues that are directly impacting us, our community.

This story was written by Walter, a poverty skolar from the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN), for the Voices of Poverty Resist series. This series was launched out of a fellowship that Lisa received from the Marguerite Casey Foundation for journalism focused on poverty. Because Lisa leads with her indigenous values of inter-dependence she has created this collective journalism process where all of our voices in poverty are speaking for ourselves.


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