Barron Hall was born at the General Hospital in Washington, D.C., in 1948. He married, had three children and, at age 36, had a mental breakdown in an elevator.
When he was 19, he began a two-year tour in Vietnam that would change his life forever, though that change wouldn’t happen for nearly 20 years. While working as an elevator operator at the National Institute of Health in 1984, he was accidentally locked in.
He has simple words for what he now knows was an episode of post-traumatic stress disorder: “I believed I was in a combat situation.”
Afterward, Hall refused to go to a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital – he was “too proud” — and began to drink and use street drugs. He occasionally found work painting and hanging drywall.
Eventually, Hall found his way to a “gospel church” where he went from attending to preaching for six years. For three years he lived in Charlotte, N.C. seeking more religious education. During this period he was off drugs, but family problems came up and he began to use again.
In 1994, Hall went to a VA hospital to resolve his addiction, anger and antisocial behavior. He spent two years in the psychiatric ward before being released. He tried compensated work therapy before falling into drugs again and starting to panhandle.
“I found out I had a heart problem,” he said. “But I went to Franklin Shelter, and some fellas told me to get on Street Sense and start working.”
Hall says he found self-esteem and a sense of self-support without panhandling. His negativity, he said, was taken away.
“I met a lot of positive people who have helped me,” he said. “Experience has taught me to be around positive people.”
Though he and his wife divorced, he has restarted his relationships with his children and grandchildren and is “picking up his life.”
“Street Sense has given me a sense of dignity,” says Hall.