William grew up all over Los Angeles, and was raised by a single mother. For years his father was in and out of his life, and William turned to crime in order to survive. While he didn’t go into much detail, William said he saw his first murder when he was just 5 years old.
“My father was a barber by trade, but also worked on airplanes from time to time,” William said. “He had a lot of skills, but alcohol was his downfall. I saw my mom working hard for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and she had to do it all by herself.”
Williams’s father would often come back and make empty promises that he would do better, but things rarely improved. “My mom really loved my dad,” William said. “But by my dad not being there, I had to make some choices that I hope my son never has to make.”
Eventually William’s father made an effort to be in his life. He showed him how to cut hair and enrolled him in barber school. “I thought to myself, ‘If I can learn how to cut hair, I can also learn others things, so I went to culinary arts school and learned how to cook,” he said. After deciding hair cutting and cooking weren’t for him, William went to trucker’s school and got his commercial driver’s license.
William gave up his apartment, as he was always on the road. He met a woman on Facebook—she was a trucker too—and they were together for 13 years. “I would have to remind her to take her insulin because she suffered from diabetes,” he said. “She almost lost her foot and her eyesight.”
The couple became pregnant, and William became a father to a son at 50. A few years later, William’s mom had three strokes—she died in November.
The next month, William’s son’s mother didn’t take her insulin. She passed out at work, didn’t have enough oxygen, and fell into a coma. She died on Dec. 24.
William and his now-9-year-old son moved in with William’s cousin to avoid homelessness, but the cousin ended up dying shortly after they arrived. “Experiencing death back to back like that—it was a lot,” he said. “It was too much. I had to still care for my son on top of all of this. I didn’t have time to mourn. Death was new to my son. It made me have to step up. I’ve raised him since he was born, but it’s just me and him now.”
William knew he needed help to provide stability for his child. “I had to go somewhere so that I could get on my feet with my son,” he said. A friend told him about the Mission. William was hesitant, but knew it was the right decision. They arrived four months ago.
“I was going to stay in my car, but I felt like it was better for my son to be in a bed,” he said. “I would have stayed in my car if it was just me, but having a kid makes things different. It’s made me realize that I am not living for myself anymore. I am living for my son. I have to try to make the best for him. I named him Ryan because he is my little king and I am his warrior.”
William said Ryan has loved playing with the other kids at the Mission. “My son has taught me patience,” he said. William plans to return to trucking when he gets settled in stable housing with his son.