By Gretchen Crowe
Larry Blanton is using his feet to get himself healthy. Sounds fairly straight-forward, but in Larry’s story, it’s multi-surfaced.
Larry was born the oldest of four children in Orange City, Calif. on August 1, 1965. He has always known mobility issues and has always conquered them. He was born with an inverted pelvis, and after the doctors broke the pelvic bones, he was put into polio casts around his legs until around age four. He doesn’t recall too many specific memories from the casts, but he distinctly remembers getting them off. “I just kept running around like crazy. My mom says she hasn’t even caught me since.”
Again, using his feet, Larry transcended any hardships and in high school was MVP in baseball and basketball; he excelled academically as well, and he was second in his class. After graduating high school in 1984, he joined the National Guard and began managing restaurants. He moved around restaurants until his son was born in 1989, and he was a shift manager at a casino in Laughlin, Nevada. One month before his son’s first birthday, the boy’s mother disappeared, leaving Larry a single parent for four years.
Keeping steady work was difficult raising a young child, but when the mother contacted Larry and let him know she was in Denver, Larry and his son soon moved. He began low-level management jobs in warehouses, organizing fork-lift crews, inventory control, and continued to raise his son, but bringing in his mom to be a part of his life.
Around four years ago Larry had his last warehouse job in Norcross, Georgia working for the BMW plant there. He was in a traumatic car accident that again was the catalyst for future mobility problems. Despite setbacks, he also completed his Associate’s degree class work for both Psychology and Business Administration. As soon as he pays his remaining owed fees, around $1000, his diplomas will be granted.
He moved back to Las Vegas, Nevada where his mobility problems began to resurface, but without diagnosis his doctors in Nevada said he would be fine in about a year. Not surprisingly, his issues didn’t clear up. After seven months managing a law firm’s call center, Larry was laid off.
He tried for employment in Las Vegas, but he could come by nothing. To be homeless in Vegas, it’s “too wild, like a zoo,” he said. To stay safe, Larry would go out to the suburbs, find a group of foreclosed homes and break in to stay in the middle one. That way, he wouldn’t be seen or heard. “I never left a trace in case I had to come back.” During that time, he saved his money to get a Greyhound ticket back to Denver.
When he arrived in Denver, he stayed at the Samaritan House shelter. At first, he applied for jobs, interviewing on average three times per week. He walked into the Denver VOICE’s Vendor office on September 9, 2010. He thought he would use the VOICE simply to make bus fair to get to job interviews, possibly even getting a bus pass.
As he vended, standing at 18th Street and Champa, his legs were in so much pain that he went to the Stout Street Clinic at Saint Francis Center and was told he needed both knees replaced, alongside having a broken vertebrae. This came three days after starting the VOICE. It was the first he had heard of these diagnoses, and the VOICE subsequently became much more important in his daily role, seeing that interviewing for jobs was futile while waiting for such an expensive and employer-unfriendly surgery. Larry currently believes he is around six to seven months out from his surgery.
“Without the VOICE, I don’t get better. I don’t make my medical co-pay’s. It’s saving me from a life of pain. It’s saving me from a wheelchair. It’s saving me from a life of disability. And it’s saving me from falling further down, and for me, the VOICE is a step up.”
Everyday, you’ll see Larry at 18th and Champa, standing on his feet, something that so painfully affects him. But, in the long run, it will help shed those figurative polio casts again, and let him run around like crazy. •