Sometimes people amaze me. As a social worker and drug counselor, I find that most people are kind, but every now and then, I run into people who are clueless and sometimes down right cruel.

There is one man in my building who has been homeless twice and who is dying and who is a born again Christian. He hates the homeless with a passion. There is another resident here who told me he wished that all of the homeless would die. There have been three tent cities across the street from me. They were quiet. They picked up their rubbish and all three were made to move. Folks, I am sure it was because of the complaints of many of the seniors who live in my building and are on food stamps and section 8 housing. We are all here because this is senior affordable housing.

Now, I have also run into two other homeless people who have put the homeless down. One man had been an addict for 20 years and got clean and sober, and finally got into housing. He said, “I’m sick to death of addicts. I am sick of these homeless bums.” Wow, I thought.

Then I worked with a nurse who didn’t become one until later life. For 20 years, she had to rely on food stamps to feed her kids, and other public resources. Then she married a very rich doctor and, all of a sudden, she grew intolerant of poor people and those with mental illnesses. At the time, I was so depressed and I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was being subjected to terrible verbal abuse from my mom while helping her through her illnesses. The nurse’s daughter's life was a mess. She, too, was crippled with on and off depression and severe mood swings. The doctors told this nurse that her daughter had bipolar, but she didn’t believe them, and neither did her daughter. She didn’t want her daughter to take meds. So, I guess suffering was okay for both of them.

This same nurse told everyone I was just a weak person. Three people in the office bullied me and all were social workers. This really got to me so I retired early and this contributed to my nervous breakdown. I was furious for many years. Well, up until three years ago. I was furious over every single thing. I’m not sure how I got to the place I am, today, but I think it has to do with my own suffering. And seeing so much suffering in my clients, in the homeless, and in the world. For some reason, since I was in elementary school and growing up in the South, where black people were treated like scum, I got it pretty early. Now, I have learned to count my blessings and I have great support from both of my sons who live in Seattle.

My point is, speak out always. Don’t be afraid to say you have a mental illness, and write your politicians. My motto in life is, if not us, who? I try to lay down my anger as quick as I can, but note it took me a long time. Take as long as you need. Frankly, I use my anger, now, to motivate me into action. Yes, some things still make me furious.




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