EMU Sophomore Hopes To Make Own Homeless Experience Into Something Positive

Dec 13, 2016

EMU sophomore James Williams (back) stands with EMU's Swoop Pantry volunteers.
Credit Haley Moraniec

The holidays are meant to be a happy time, but that is not always the case for many people living in our area.


With Thanksgiving under their belts, many Washtenaw County residents are preparing for the next holiday season.  But for some people, there is not a lot of celebrating to be done, as each day for many is just a struggle to get by.

James Williams is a sophomore at Eastern Michigan University and was homeless before entering college.

"...sleeping in my car, the sidewalks, all that stuff.  But then, when I came here, it was like, 'Whoa!'  It's a lot easier now.  People be complaining about stuff.  I don't see nothing to complain about here.  You got wi-fi.  You got shelter.  You got food.  You got water.  You got hot water.  I don't see no reason to complain about nothing here."

58,000 college students nationwide report experiencing homelessness on their college financial aid applications, but university officials say not everyone wants to admit that they do not have stable housing.

Williams urges college students and those who deal with them to pay attention to verbal cues as a way of determining if someone is in need but embarrassed to admit it.

"People who are in these situations often look for someone they can vent to, but they feel safe venting to people, because, a lot of times, people were hurt in the past.  So, just be a friend and always listen out for the cues."

Now in his second year at Eastern, Williams is determined to get an education and is dedicated to helping others.

"Knowing that there's other people out there with the same situation and they're like underrepresented, and they don't have, like, that support system, so I'm gonna find 'em, and I'm gonna help 'em."

Meanwhile, he celebrates holidays with friends on campus, taking advantage of Eastern's donated food program, where he also volunteers to pay it forward.

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— Lisa Barry is a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU. Contact her at 734.487.3363, on twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her lbarryma@emich.edu