Barron Hall

“I’m a vet,” is the first thing Barron Hall said when I asked how best to describe him.

Although Barron has many different interests that could describe him, such as being an avid reader, being a veteran is the first thing he mentions. As we talked, I began to understand why: being a veteran is what really changed Barron’s life.

Barron is a third-generation Washingtonian, and even though he describes his upbringing as “unique – and not in a good way,” his rough childhood did not bring him down. Being forced into the army, and his time there, did.

When Barron came back from Vietnam, he was a changed man.

“I just felt so much guilt from things I’d done in war,“ Barron explained.

Still Barron managed for some time to hold a job, but slowly the symptoms of post-traumatic stress
disorder were too much for him to handle. Instead of seeking help, Barron began self-medicating and soon had left behind his old life, with wife and kids, and was living on the street.

“At first it was humiliating, but living in the street gave me a chance to isolate myself and not worry about anyone needing me,” Barron said.

Today Barron lives in a government- subsidized apartment. Before that he had been homeless for 21 years.

“I was running from myself,” Barron said, looking back on his years on the street. Barron said the running stopped when he began working as a vendor for Street Sense.

“Street Sense is a way for me to get relief from being poor,” Barron explained. “It gives me personal income and a way not to sit there panhandling. The paper gives me self-esteem, and a way to keep my head up although I’m poor.”

Another turning point for Barron was when, years before finding Street Sense, he found psychiatric
help and began taking medicine after visiting the Veterans Administration Hospital.

Today, Barron tries to persuade other veterans to seek help by telling his story through Street Sense. Barron follows his own advice. When I met him again, he was on his way to the Veterans Administration Hospital and said that he probably will stay there for a week or two since he is not feeling well.

This is why you might not have been able to find Barron Hall by his usual corner at 3rd and D Street, S.W. by the Federal Center subway station. He will be back though, and he will try to write for the paper from the hospital, he said.

Barron’s New Year’s resolution is “to take one day at a time and help as many people as I can and get close to God, and just try to do it better.”