Posted on November 23, 2010
Lamar Williams, 56, arrived at Fort Lee in 1979 after serving a short time in the Army National Guard. Originally from Rockford, Ill., he wanted to explore the East Coast and decided to settle down in a rural area in Petersburg.
Raised primarily by his mother, Williams belonged to a large family in Illinois consisting of five sisters and two brothers. He obtained his first job at a young age at Chrysler and soon after enrolled in the Army.
His downfall came after leaving the armed forces with two failed marriages and a severe bout of loneliness. He began hanging with a bad crowd who took advantage of his vulnerability and introduced him to drugs.
“[He told me] ‘This will take your mind off all your troubles’ and it tricked me. I yielded to that temptation,” says Williams. “[The good feeling you get when you’re on drugs] it’s a deceiver, it – it lasts for so long…and then it’s gone and all your troubles are still there. “
Lamar spent his time drifting in and out of homelessness. When he didn’t have shelter, Williams and his friends would spend time outside of businesses huddled together trying to get warm but were often dismissed by police officers.
“[One of the most difficult parts] was going to places and not being wanted,” he said. “People were frowning on me because I was homeless. They just didn’t know what I was going through.”
While bouncing between several shelters, hope came from CARITAS employee, Tara Kantner, who is now a housing supervisor with Virginia Supportive Housing.
“He had been in homeless services time and time again,” says Kantner. “If there’s anyone who deserves this, it’s Lamar. He’s just a great guy and the ideal candidate.”
After almost 20 years in and out of homelessness, Williams is currently at a great point in his life. He has been sober for more than a year and says he could not have done it without the help of VSH.
“I like this place. I have my own kitchen. I’m grateful because I have everything I need in that little space back there,” he said.
He spends much his time in his apartment listening to gospel and enjoying his favorite past time – cooking. In fact he and one of his four children spent Thanksgiving together as they cooked for his family.
“The ladies came home and did all the trimmings, pies, and sweets. But me and my son, we did the turkey and ham and we were high-fiving one another.”
A deeply religious man, he also travels to various churches in the Richmond area with friends and encourages many of those still struggling with homelessness to do the same.
“I try not to forget what God has brought me from. [I won’t] ever forget,” said Williams. “I asked God to not let me get so high-minded that I think I can’t fall.”
Though regretful of his past mistakes and the time he lost to his drug addiction, Williams is optimistic for the future. “I know now today I know I am free – And I’m going to stay free.”