Bill W.

Bill-photo--rectangle (600x400)At 73 years old, Bill knows what his purpose is: to serve others. He first answered that call in 1968, when he entered the Army Medical Corps. The next year, he was sent overseas to Vietnam, where he served two tours.

During the war he witnessed terrible tragedies, but was unable to comprehend the toll the trauma took on him, “I saw some stuff that probably no human being should have to see…but I didn’t have time to pay attention to the death and destruction over there because people’s lives depended on me.”

When Bill returned home, he went back to school to earn his Master’s degree, then started a successful computer company, yet over the years he kept falling back into homelessness. Altogether, Bill lived on the streets of Washington, D.C. for 17 years.

With the same commitment he had shown as an Army medic, Bill focused his energies during this time on protecting others. “I don’t care who you are, you’ll need help getting off the street,” he says. He recalls once intervening in a robbery, and another time he took a young woman under his wing to prevent her from committing suicide.

Yet, while he devoted himself to helping everyone around him, Bill struggled to find the help he needed to get off the streets for good. 

“In hindsight it was probably PTSD,” he admits. “I didn’t want to have any responsibilities or pay bills. My mind just wasn’t there.”

What finally made the difference for Bill was meeting Adam at Miriam’s Kitchen.

“If it weren’t for Adam I’d never be housed,” he recalls.  Together, they found the right housing fit for Bill, a permanent apartment through the Veteran’s Affairs Supportive Housing program (VASH), which provides supportive services tailored specifically for veterans. He is finally living with the dignity that he deserves. Help make sure no veteran lives without the dignity of a home.

Although Bill has found a place to call home, he’s not about to leave behind those who haven’t. “I have friends out there, so it’s incumbent that I stay involved.”

He regularly brings people to Miriam’s Kitchen and says he keeps coming back because “Miriam’s Kitchen means integrity, professionalism, and service. They treat you with dignity, care, and love. And they’re involved in the larger issues of ending homelessness.”

Together with Miriam’s, Bill is committed to keeping the issue of homelessness on the policy agenda through sustained advocacy. A respected and passionate public speaker, Bill is excited to be one of the founding members of the speaker’s program at Miriam’s Kitchen, where he and other individuals can speak about the experiences of homelessness and advocate for solutions.

Bill is also happy to report that now his mission to care for others extends to his own family. Since moving into his own apartment, he is again able to support his daughter and granddaughter and is busy planning his own wedding. Though he remains a tireless advocate in ending homelessness, today Bill can also take time to enjoy the little things.

“I like to take my great-grandson to the zoo to see the pandas. To me that’s everything.”

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