Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
"I still have potential," says 'homeless hero'
One of Winnipeg's saddest stories continues to unfold.
Today, Faron Hall — best known as the city's 'homeless hero' — was handed yet another stint in jail after yet another violent outburst fuelled by alcohol, and his alcoholism.
He got five months in total in the clink from Judge Mary Curtis, after pleading guilty to assault with a weapon and breaching the terms of a probation order requiring him to not be intoxicated in public.
Just days before that Dec. 31 breach that saw him greet the new year from inside the Remand Centre, Hall had been faithfully attending AA meetings in St. Boniface three days a week. He was bailed out after a week, but three weeks later wound up rearrested.
The Shopper's Drug Mart security guard a drunken Hall struck in the eye with a "pager," after Hall was spotted apparently trying to steal some sunglasses from a display in early February, suffered no lasting injuries.
Hall, nearing his 50th birthday, has roughly 3.5 months left to serve behind bars, but will likely get out in half that due to early-release policies.
I won't belabour Hall's history, and how he became a household name in Winnipeg.
But, as Hall tells it, the heroism most remember him by came with a major price.
He had to make a choice to save one life.
The cost of that decision was the life of another. Something he says haunts him to this day.
Here's Faron Hall's lucid, intelligent and lengthy speech to Curtis today in courtroom 308.
"To be honest, my alcohol in the last few years — it's like a coping mechanism to me. I was in the paper for saving a couple people from drowning, albeit the last one, I was able to save a young lady, but a really good friend of mine, he perished in the river because I had to let him go to save the other lady.
"The guilt that I carry on my shoulders, it still bothers me and my doctor says I might be suffering from post-traumatic stress. Which may be because living in St. Boniface every day I have to travel over that same bridge to get home. Just my coping mechanism is, is just how I deal with this. My only … I meant no ill will towards the crime prevention officer in the Shoppers Drug Mart. I don't consider myself to be a mean-spirited individual, you know."
Curtis: You're obviously a different person when you've been drinking.
"Yeah, that is correct, Your Honour. And the shame that I feel the next day just for that two seconds of euphoria where I forget all the troubles and all the guilt and everything. Sure, that's maybe, possibly what I look for, but the thing I've come to realize is that the next day, it just comes back two-fold, I guess you could say.
"And it's hard for me. Depression, the anxiety. I'm always asked if I'm suicidal, do I have suciadal thoughts. And my first response is: 'no I don't, I don't feel that way,' but I don't know Your Honour. Maybe deep down, maybe it is something in that regard, boiling somewhere down there where it's my only way to deal with my emotion, my emotional aspects right now.
"I feel that I have a lot to offer still, right now."
Curtis: Agrees with Hall, and notes ironically how the alcohol he drinks doesn't just get him drunk and into trouble — it also becomes a path by which he gets sober, because he inevitably winds up in jail and unable to access liquor.
"… (Alcoholism) is an illness, and it is hard once you're in the clutches of it — it's just overcoming it — that's the battle within itself and you're right, being in custody all the time, it's not going to come to an end.
"… I just want to give it another chance, and not to be given up upon. Because I still have potential."
Curtis: Well, it appears the one who gives up on you is you, from time to time.
"That's true, Your Honour."
It's impossible to understate the level of loss Hall has suffered during his life.
Not least of which are the fact his mother was murdered years ago, a sister stabbed and that many of his relatives have drank themselves to death.
Hall's story is so, so sad. At least it is to me. And I don't mean that in a judgemental way. I don't know if I'd have the strength to go on if I'd been through what he has.
But despite that, I still believe him when he says he's not ready to give up just yet.
I guess time will tell.
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About James Turner
James Turner rejoined the Free Press as a justice-beat reporter in August 2013 after a number of years away working at other media outlets, including the Winnipeg Sun and CBC Manitoba.
A reporter in Winnipeg since 2005, he got his first taste of the justice beat as a former Free Press intern, then as the newspaper's police reporter from 2008-09.
Among the topics he's eager to cover are youth crime, street gangs, child-welfare and how the mental health and justice systems intersect.
An avid blogger and early adopter of Twitter, James (@heyjturner) loves to write long, much to the frustration of his editors.
He despises animal cruelty. He loves 80s music and his tubby labrador retriever.
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