This is a true story about homelessness, mental illness,
friendship, perserverance, and the healing power of music.
While more than 50,000 homeless people are on the streets on any given night in Los Angeles, Nathaniel Anthony Ayers is no longer one of them.
Nathaniel Ayers was once a brilliant young musician studying at the prestigious Juilliard School, but untreated schizophrenia left him living on the streets. His journey on the path away from homelessness began when Steve Lopez, a Los Angeles Times reporter, befriended Ayers after discovering him in the 2nd Street tunnel playing a violin with two strings and astonishing virtuosity.
Lopez spent two years trying to help Ayers secure appropriate treatment within the maze of homeless and mental health agencies. Finally, with the support of Volunteers of America and partner organizations, Ayers’ life is back on track.
He’s now receiving treatment for his schizophrenia and has a roof over his head at a Volunteers of America housing facility where he can often be heard serenading neighbors and staff.
Lopez’s articles on Ayers’ transformation led to a book titled “The Soloist” and inspired a DreamWorks film starring Jamie Foxx as Ayers and Robert Downey Jr. as Lopez.
The Soloist tells the true story of the gripping roller coaster ride that, for far too many of the
chronic homeless, defines their ascent out of homelessness.
Nathaniel Ayers is a man not defined by his homelessness and mental illness, but by his talent and his capacity to inspire others through the power of his extraordinary gifts.
To read Steve Lopez's L.A. Times articles about Nathaniel, click here.
To visit the film's social action campaign, click here.
To donate to VOALA homeless programs, click here.