Sometimes the course of a life is changed by a simple act of kindness. Sometimes that kindness comes because a journalist wants a story. for whatever reason Nathaniel Ayers life changed when his friendship with Steve Lopez formed.
Ayers story was presented in the recent movie The Soloist starring Jamie Fox and Robert Downey Jr. But Nathaniel Ayers is a real man and his story is inspiring.
Ayers’ story has inspired newspaper columns, a book and the movie. In 2008 a foundation bearing his name was started to support the artistically gifted that struggle with mental illness.
Above all Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Jr. is a musican. His mental illness has hindered his role in society but not his talent.
He studied at Julliard School in New York City until his schizophrenia blocked his way. For years he lived at his mother’s home in Cleveland, Ohio and dealt with electroshock treatments. They didn’t help.
In 2000 after his mother passed away Ayers left for Los Angeles believing that his father lived there. In LA he joined the thousands that live on the street. Playing broken instruments on street corners for a living Ayers survived.
In 2005 Steve Lopez happened upon Ayers. The LA Times journalist wrote about the talented man and formed a friendship. Lopez went on to write a book,”The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music” , about Ayers transition from living on the street to living inside.
Jennifer Ayers-Moore, sister of Nathaniel, is the founder of the Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation. The Foundation was begun in 2008. It is Jennifer’s desire to use the foundation to help thousands of people by keeping public awareness about mental health on the front burner.
One of the partners of the foundation is the LAMP Community. LAMP is an organization that works to end homelessness and build self-sufficiency with those on the Los Angeles streets that deal with mental illness. Using a Housing First approach they use housing as a means to begin the first steps in treating their clients mental illness.