NEW YORK, May 20, 2013 — Each year the homeless population increases in the United States. The reasons for this vary. Natural disasters, disability, substance abuse, and lack of affordable housing are just a few factors that result in homelessness. According to The National Student Campaign against Hunger and Homelessness, more than 3.5 million people experience homelessness each year in the United States.
Why is homelessness on the rise? The Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County provides an answer: “When a household is using more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, they frequently have to make difficult decisions about what to pay, be it housing, utilities, food, childcare, health care, education or transportation. With limited resources, one emergency or unplanned situation can begin a downward spiral into homelessness.”
What do the homeless themselves have to say about their struggle? Ted Williams, The Golden Voice, a formerly homeless man who became an internet sensation in 2011 after a recording of his voice went out to the public on Youtube, answers to this and other pressing questions.
Ted, a native of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York sat down to discuss how he became homeless and offers some suggestions for empowering the homeless to empower themselves.
Richard Ivory: Ted, what caused you to become homeless?
Ted Williams: Well, if I had to point to one thing, it would be my personal battle with drugs and alcohol.
Ivory: How long were you homeless on the street?
Williams: I would say I was homeless for about 17 years.
Ivory: Looking back, what services do you think would have helped you to leave the streets?
Williams: I wish there’d been some type of drop-in center that helped to provide the homeless with the ”tools” and ”resources” to get off of the street. In fact, there was very little information on where to go if you had a mental illness. The homeless need to learn how to get off the streets. If I’d only known about some of the resources already available out there, I could have been off the street many years ago. That said, there was always food pantries, soup kitchens and places to shower. I never went hungry.
Ivory: What in your opinion was the percentage of the homeless that you met who had a mental illness?
Williams: I would say about 70 percent of the people on the street had a mental illness
Ivory: What about substance abuse?
Williams: I would say about 40 percent of my buddies on the street had some struggle with substance abuse issues.
Ivory: What helped you to get by while you were on the streets?
Williams: My faith in God, prayer, and my hope that one day I’d see my mother before she passed away.
Ivory: I hear you are writing a book?
Williams: The Book has already been published. It’s called, A Golden Voice: How Faith, Hard Work, and Humility Brought Me from the Streets to Salvation. You can get the book through Amazon or Barnes and Nobles.
Ivory: How has your life changed since being homeless?
Williams: I am on an upsurge; I have two vehicles and I am currently working for KRAFT Foods, and I’m doing the speaking circuit. So all in all, I’d say my life has changed completely.
Ivory: How is your new job with Kraft going? What does it entail?
Williams: Well, I work with Kraft doing voice-overs for their macaroni and cheese commercials.
Ivory: Has the company been supportive of you in other ways?
Williams: Yes, Kraft has made a significant contribution to my Non-for-profit named The Ted Williams Project.
Ivory: What does your nonprofit do?
Williams: We raise money to help struggling shelters. We provide them with sheets, soap, washer and dryers (among other things).
Ivory: One last question, is it true that you do personalized voice mails?
Williams: It’s true! Anyone wanting a personalized voicemail from the man with “The Golden Voice” can do so through my website at the low fee of $19.95 per voicemail.
Ivory: Ted, thanks for sitting with me and letting our readers hear your story.
Williams: No, thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my story.
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