Meet Charles Williams
Before coming to Friendship Place, Charles Williams survived Hurricane Katrina – huddling in the Superdome with his family – and later experienced 8 1⁄2 years of homelessness in Washington, DC, both on the street and in shelters. Charles has long suffered from mental illness, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Worst of all, he lost a son to gun violence.
But, Charles reports, “I never gave up.” Despite his own challenges, Charles has maintained his identity as a giver. He has worked at Catholic Charities, assisting in both the soup kitchen and in their outreach program. Charles also helped provide caregiving for a brother who suffered from multiple sclerosis. He tells us, “That’s where my satisfaction is, there’s always someone who has more need than you, and I like to help.”
Most recently, Charles lived at a shelter on the grounds of the old St. Elizabeth’s hospital. It was hard being there – even before COVID – with the loss of privacy that comes with living among hundreds of people and the lights that never went all the way out, making it difficult to sleep.
While there, he was offered an opportunity to take part in Friendship Place’s new program, Valley Place – a new transitional facility that provide residents with up to ninety days of housing, while they look for a permanent home.
Charles is thrilled to be at Valley Place. “When I got here, it was just like I dreamed.” Little things make a big difference. Charles is excited to have his own shower and other household items. He gushed to us, “I haven’t had an ironing board in a long time.”
Case managers explained to him that Valley Place was a place he could stay while working to become independent. “Here at Valley Place the program is geared to structure, with a goal of independence and being responsible for yourself.”
While at Valley Place, though, Charles receives services for all his needs. He says, “staff is concerned about every aspect of our lives.” He has access to health care, assistance with his SSI needs, transportation, and other wrap-around services.
He is happy to have so many Friendship Place staff members to care for him. “I have amazing caseworkers, Denise and Tia, a wellness team, and a housing navigator. All of the staff has my best interest at heart.”
Thanks to Friendship Place, Charles has everything he needs to make a fresh start. And he has plans. He wants to get settled into his own apartment. When he is, he wants to write a book, so others can learn from his experience. For now, though, Charles tells us “I can’t think of a better place to be.”