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Meet Travon Williams of It Starts With Friends in Skid Row

Today we’d like to introduce you to Travon Williams.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Growing up in and out of the Department of Children and Family Services system was extremely difficult for me. I entered the system at the age of 12; the multiple facilities and group homes I was forced in were depressing; I was made to feel like an animal and outcast by staff members and case workers. In a system designed to provide protection for abused and neglected children and give them the opportunity for a better life, I experienced additional abuse and neglect. The system failed me at almost every turn. I got heavily involved in the gang culture. To prevent myself from getting taken advantage of, I often had to fight other kids who were in gangs and even staff members who were both verbally and physically abusive. I felt dehumanized, and I honestly hated life. I was in this dark space in my life and felt lonely and sense of abandonment.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I have faced many challenges along the way such as substance abuse, I’ve struggle with mental health, homelessness, etc. I think aging out of the system, I’ve hit every negative statistic that their is while in the foster care system and aging out.

It Starts With Friends – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Along the way, I made friends that became family. They worked hard on me so I could learn to love myself. They never gave up on me and saw my potential. That always stuck with me, so I promised that I would pay it forward. Members of our board had struggled with similar disadvantages- including homelessness and substance abuse. That’s when we founded IT STARTS WITH FRIENDS. We understood how a person could end up at a place like Skid Row. We developed a strong team of individuals that focuses on rebuilding relationships within the community. We provide gourmet meals to those on Skid, and monthly haircuts given by licensed volunteer barbers. We’re in the works of developing transitional housing programs, along with mental health programs. We also started a new section, working with foster and inner city youth. We have workshops geared towards education, life skill training, job placement, etc. ISWF understands that the youth is our future, so we have to invest in them in order to truly see a difference in our community. Most importantly, our goal is to spread love.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
First, we would like to thank our supporters within the community; it’s because of their love, faith, and support, that we’re able continue to be successful as a nonprofit. We would like to thank the Skid Row Community Refresh Spot. A special shout out to the volunteer barbers and stylists, the young people who volunteer their time and efforts as part of ISWF. I personally would like to give a huge heartfelt shout out to The Team. I would not be able to do any of this without them. They inspire me to keep going. We uplift each other for a greater purpose.

They are amazing individuals that have played a major role in the development of IT STARTS WITH FRIENDS and continuously work day and night to push the agenda of love to those we serve. So, to me, success is bringing others together who normally would not mingle in the same circle to help bring change to some of the social issues that we are we face within the community.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Corey Burns

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