A pianist who was homeless in Hollywood for a year and a half says he never lacked for company on the streets.
Stryker, who is here to raise funds for the Salvation Army, was a successful businessman before a series of disasters made him homeless, and in the six and a half years since then he has forged a career as a pianist on cruise ships.
But for 18 months during 2002-04, when he was in his 30s, he shared life on the streets of Hollywood with thousands of others shut out of the American dream.
"In Los Angeles they probably have half a million homeless people, that's what I've heard. The statistic of the number of teenagers that come into Hollywood every month looking for stardom and end up on the streets is in the thousands," he said. "I was a lot older than a lot of the people I hung out with on the streets. Most of them were aged 15 to their mid-20s, a lot of them were prostituting themselves."
He slept in an abandoned car yard, in a parking building, and once for a week with about 20 homeless kids under a rooftop swimming pool.
"A lot of time it was alone, but you connect with someone, you're best friends for two weeks, then they disappear," he said.
Stryker came from a loving family and had a successful career before becoming homeless. He played and sang gospel music from the age of 9 with his parents while they travelled the US as evangelists. Later he built up a chain of taekwondo studios, made films and set up a film editing studio. It all fell apart when thieves stole his editing gear and almost everything he owned. A friend let him stay in his apartment. But the building manager thought he was a vagrant and changed the locks so he was shut out. He was left with his car, and then that was stolen too.
"I tried to call the core group of my 10 closest friends. One gave me his place. The rest wouldn't answer my calls any more. That's common for Hollywood - the moment you can't help them up the ladder any more, they're not interested," he said. "It's a really different world when you're homeless. You all of a sudden don't exist in the real world."
Eventually he went to live with his mother. She got cancer, and he got back into music to support her.
A donor has paid for Stryker to come to New Zealand for the Salvation Army, which is raising funds for a new housing social worker. "I would like that horrible period in my life to mean something," he said.
• Today 12.30pm-2.30pm: "Tent for any tenant" auction on Trade Me, outside WG and WT Buildings, AUT, Wakefield St.
• Friday (World Homelessness Day), 10.30am: Playing piano on back of a truck behind Manurewa Library; later at Botany and Manukau libraries.
• Tuesday, October 14, 7pm: Recovery Church with David Tua, Salvation Army, 16D Bakerfield Pl, Manukau.
• Sunday, October 19, 7pm: Fundraising show, Auckland Grammar School auditorium. Bookings: www.eventbrite.co.nz