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Opinion

'Homeless Hero' making strides in alcohol rehab

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/11/2009 (3883 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Faron Hall couldn't have shown up for breakfast at a more appropriate time or place.

Wednesday was the Salvation Army's annual Hope in the City Breakfast at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, and if there was ever a person who is the face of hope for the homeless and addicted in this city, it's Faron Hall.

Tom Jackson (left) meets Homeless Hero Faron Hall at Salvation Army breakfast Wednesday.

CARSON SAMSON / FOR THE WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Tom Jackson (left) meets Homeless Hero Faron Hall at Salvation Army breakfast Wednesday.

The "Homeless Hero", as he's become known, is in treatment at an aboriginal-operated addictions rehabilitation centre. People who knew him before he voluntarily sought help for his alcoholism last month, and have seen him lately, are impressed with his progress.

"They say, 'You have this glow you didn't have when you went in," Faron will proudly tell you.

So it was that on Wednesday -- after nearly four weeks at Pritchard House -- Faron caught a bus from the North End treatment centre bound for the Winnipeg Convention Centre.

He had been invited to hear another former addict and homeless person speak about his own road to recovery.

Tom Jackson's famously deep voice delivered the even deeper message

The aboriginal actor and singer spoke about a time in Toronto more than 20 years ago when stopping on the street to help a dying homeless man helped him save himself.

As he sat listening with the rest of the hushed audience Faron must have heard an echo.

It was two heroic river rescues of two people -- just months apart this year -- that ultimately compelled Faron to finally try to save himself.

The difference between the two journeys, of course, is Tom Jackson completed his recovery years ago.

Faron Hall isn't even out of the starting blocks.

Still, he's never been more hopeful about the future. Or frightened by it.

Last week, over the phone from Pritchard House, Faron talked about that and more. He began by talking about what drove him out of his Manitoba Housing apartment and into rehab.

"I looked around my place and I wondered whether I'd live to see Christmas if I kept going the way I was going."

He described the way he was going. "It's like trying to walk through a fog with your arms stretched out. Trying to find your way."

The fog would follow him to Pritchard House.

"The first week it was really hard for me. Especially going through withdrawal and depression."

None of that was new for Faron because he'd been in rehab before. What is different this time is his attitude.

"The last couple of times I was here I was... we call it playing the game."

That's because the last couple of times were court-ordered.

"What makes it different this time," Faron continued, "is the feeling I have. It's in my heart. It wasn't like that before. I'm doing it for myself, to heal myself."

I suspect what's also changed -- what's also driving him -- is his own sense of self-worth. Now instead of being somebody the passing public looks down on, he's someone they look up to.

What Faron's grateful for is the people who always looked up to him and still do.

"Even my street friends, they ask me, 'Are you still in your program?' They didn't ostracize me or ridicule me. They were supportive."

Yet his homeless friends are also the people he's afraid could pull him back into the homeless lifestyle. Ironically he could be forced to desert the people who haven't deserted him.

The fact is he fears the world outside Pritchard House.

"Once I'm out of here it's going to be scary for me. Because this place is a little sanctuary."

Fortunately Faron won't have to leave Pritchard House until Dec. 17.

I say fortunately because clearly Faron still needs his " little sanctuary." He's doesn't feel ready to return full-time to the apartment that overlooks the riverbanks where he once lived and the river where he heroically saved two lives. The same apartment where he feared he might not live to see Christmas, but now will.

All because, Faron Hall -- like Tom Jackson -- reached out and saved himself. What he needs now, though, is even more support. Will those who have promised it in the past deliver now that he's sober?

I don't know.

But I leave you with the gracious and hopeful words Faron left me with.

"Let good spirits guide you. Because they're guiding me."

gordon.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 1:13 PM CST: Corrects typo

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