Anthony Bielek is a resident of San Diego and currently housed and working. He is an advocate for the homeless and a member of Voices of Our City Choir.
The story of how I became homeless goes back to 1990. All in two weeks’ time, my father died, my girlfriend and I broke up and she moved in with her sister taking my 2-year-old daughter, Kasandra, with her. Next, I lost my job. I lived in my car for two years. I got by recycling and yardwork. Disaster struck when I fell asleep at the wheel hitting a parked car and totaling my car. I walked away from that with minor cuts and a concussion. Since I lost my car, I had nowhere to go. I was sleeping in San Diego canyons, parks and sidewalks, and couch surfed. I survived somehow but was suffering severe depression. I visited my daughter often as she grew up. Many times, she saw me at my worst. I was a substance abuser. I looked bad and felt worse. I was ashamed that I was a failure at being a good father. Many times, I contemplated suicide, but God told me it will get better just keep going.
“Don’t Give Up,” a song by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, inspired me and became my motto. I felt alone but God was always in my heart. He comforted me through the dark valleys of my journey through homelessness which had many more years to come. I got a job as a caregiver for a handicapped friend who let me live with him, lasting four years, then I was back to streets again. About this time my daughter and her mother moved to El Cajon. In 2010, I decided it was time to get sober and sheltered. I stayed at the San Diego Rescue Mission, a faith-based rehab for two years. I graduated and earned an internship, extending my time there. My relationship with God was strengthened. Then I went to Father Joe’s where I learned how to use a computer. I learned how to make a resume and fill out applications online. The world had changed immensely due to the internet. I succeeded to get a job telemarketing, which lasted 10 months. I went into the PATH program.
I was still at the PATH program when I lost that job. I had two months to get employed to stay there but failed and was back on the street. It was February 2017. The next and last 11 months of being homeless were the hardest and darkest of my entire journey. Summer 2017, all my worldly possessions were stolen. My bicycle and trailer, tent, blankets, everything gone. I began losing weight and could no longer give plasma for money. Winter came and I shivered every night for months. Severe depression and suicidal thoughts haunted me. I isolated myself and stopped talking to anyone. No Thanksgiving, no Christmas. Mentally and physically, I was in bad shape.
Then in January 2018 I began feeling numbness and pain in my left foot. I let it go a few days. It got so bad I could no longer walk. I crawled across the street and asked a security guard to call an ambulance. The doctors found I had an embolism (blood clot) and deep vein thrombosis. No blood circulation for days. My foot was dead. My left leg was amputated below the knee. I was in after-care hospital four months. Two days after I got my new prosthetic leg and foot, I was homeless again. A good friend took me in until I could get in the Alpha Bridge shelter. Two weeks and I was in the tent. Five weeks later I was signing my name on the paperwork to my own apartment.
Twenty-eight years of homelessness is over, gone forever. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord in Jeremiah 29:11, “plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Now the good stuff begins! I was able to get social security benefits. My first purchase was a Squire Bass guitar. I began lessons online starting where I left off 40 years ago. Then I met Steph Johnson, director of Voices of Our City Choir. That was the magical moment that directed my life on the musical journey I always wished for but had been deluded from my life due to no opportunity. Since a teen, I dreamed of a career in the music industry, singing, writing, sound crew, lighting, roadie even. A goal of mine was to play bass and sing at the same time.
All this and so much more has and is continually growing because of The Voices of Our City Choir. Voices has been a tremendous source of joy. I have a wonderful choir family and support group. The renewing of my mind, healing and becoming the person I was meant to be. I am eternally grateful for my choir family. For the first time in my life, I am part of something bigger than myself. Voices is my way to give back and help the homeless community however God wants to use me. Right now, I am exactly where I am supposed to be.