Hello. This is me and my friend Walter Pratt, Jr.
I met Walter when I first started doing street outreach in St. Louis. At the time Walter lived under an overpass. I kept up with Walter as he moved around. He didn't go far. He slept in the park for a little while after he moved from the overpass. Then he moved to Tent City over on the Illinois side.
Walter was there for me as much as I was there for him. Walter watched as I went to California on more than one occasion. He saw the heartache in my eyes when I'd come back without my mom.
A few months ago, Walter announced that he was going to California. Walter knew my mom was last seen living homeless in Santa Monica, California in 2013 and he wanted to find her for me. As soon as I heard the news and Walter's plan, I went to Tent City to talk him out of it. I told him how dangerous the streets in California could be. I told him that I'm sure my mom's moved on and that I've been there numerous times and just can't find her. I also told him, if something were to happen to him, it would devastate me to the core.
Of course, Walter's mind was made up. He was going and that was that. So then we discussed California and the different places in the Los Angeles area. I told him, if I were homeless, I'd live on Venice Beach. I told him about the boardwalk and how beautiful it is. I told him it's not against the law to be homeless on the beach there. Another outreach person bought Walter a bus ticket to Los Angeles and another homeless advocate printed fliers of my mom for him.
Walter left for California a few days ago and arrived in Los Angeles. He told me he figured out how to use Wi-Fi on his phone so he was able to call me through Facebook to let me know he made it. He told me he was going to start his search. I reminded him, again, about Venice Beach and told him to be careful. I asked him not to go to Skid Row at night until he gets familiar with the area.
If you're in California and see my friend, Walter, please give him a big hug for me. And please join me as I continue to pray for Walter's safety. Walter's forever captured my heart.
I love you, Dear Friend. <3 ~Robin~
Robin Burton is founder of Missing & Homeless