For those who appear to have it all together, living in the moment is a choice. For the homeless, living in the present — without any idea of what the future holds — is the only option. There is no difference between yesterday’s struggle and tomorrow’s, no going back and starting over. This is an experience that vendor Patrick Balerio lives out each and every day.
Patrick, 56, has been vending the Denver Voice since October 2011.
“I have been homeless long-term, most of my adult life, off and on,” Patrick said.
Originally from Las Animas County, Patrick came to Denver with his family roughly 53 years ago. Patrick was raised in the city and attended Denver North High School. After graduating in 1976, Patrick soon began his life on the streets. Patrick has faced many challenges while being homeless, one of which is his recent diagnosis with a mental illness.
“Contending with mental health issues has been a lifelong endeavor for me. Having been clueless as to what my condition was, I was perplexed as to what was wrong with me,” Patrick said. “I had a deep-seated distrust of people in general.”
Since being diagnosed with adult antisocial disorder in 2011, Patrick has been able to find different strategies to cope with his condition.
“I was able to research my condition and finally establish, after a period of time, some balance and some clarity in my life,” Patrick said.
Despite the nature of his disorder, Patrick still finds strength, comfort and recovery in vending the Voice. “Vending has been very instrumental in breaking me out of my shell,” Patrick said.
While vending, Patrick is always working toward bettering himself. He takes strides toward recovery each time he goes out to vend.
“The most important aspect with vending I find is fueling the human connection: The ability to communicate and the willingness to open up to humanity in general. I find it very inspiring and fulfilling, especially considering the fact that I have been diagnosed with adult antisocial disorder,” Patrick said. “Put it this way: I have made leaps and bounds in coming to terms with my condition, my diagnosis and overall recovery from self-destructive behaviors and addictive behaviors.”
“What keeps me motivated is the inspiration I receive daily from the numerous people I encounter on a daily basis, at least those I have established a rapport with,” Patrick said.
Patrick credits a great deal of his successful recovery to the same friendships he builds on the streets.
“I attribute [my recovery] to the research I have made, and the many blessings and insights I received from many of the friends I have acquired over the past three years while vending,” Patrick said.
In addition to vending, Patrick also enjoys studying world affairs and reading classic literature.
“I love reading the works of Latin, Russian and English writers. I also enjoy a few of the American writers,” Patrick said.
He also loves watching movies, calling himself a movie buff.
“My favorite movies are ‘My Fair Lady’ and ‘Of Human Bondage,’” Patrick said.
“[I like] Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor was good, she was so awesome. ... Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, the list could go on and on,” Patrick said.
Above all, Patrick loves to learn, and he credits many of his lessons to one specific place. “Many of the things I have learned in my life travels, and my life situations, I have learned standing on my corner on 17th and Lawrence,” Patrick said.