John 8:32, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free," might be homeless inventor Mike Williams favorite Bible verse.
He learned the truth on many occassions, but one night in particular Williams learned how desperate and brutal homeless existance can be.
"There was this beautiful blonde girl, she was pulling on a bag, and she had a baby in her arms," he said in a recent exculsive interview with Gospel Hearld.
"She knocked on the dumpster and said, 'sir, we have to get out of this weather, I'm tired and we are cold and hungry,'" he recalled. "The baby was crying and crying, so i popped out the dumpster and made her a little spot, And I took care of that lady and baby for three days in that dumpster. I went and got them diapers, and I went and got them food. I went to get diapers one day and I came back and they were gone."
He told about how the girl was beaten and bruised, eyes bloodied from a domestic situation she was trying to escape. He said she was very scared of him at first, because of all the people that are willing to perpetrate on the homeless, including other homeless people. The Christian obligation he felt to help her, has now grown to wanting to help all those desperate on the streets.
Williams believes we need to start from the top down and revamp how we view and handle homelessness in America. He envisions communities of pod-living people, working together in harmony, rather than millions left to essentially fend for themselves in the gutters of America.
Williams said he thought the beginning of any real positive change is to take an honest, truthful look at what homelessness means in 2014, and what can better be done about it.
"It's getting rough out there, I've met every kind of wacko you can imagine," he said, sharing stories about finding out the man sleeping next to him in the homeless shelter was an admitted pedophile, to being robbed at gun point by a drug fiend.
Williams is known as the homeless inventor, after his story of gain and loss and gain again was well documented last year everywhere from the LA Times to NPR. He had made it to the top of the heap as an inventor and investor, and was living a well-to-do life when his 28-year marriage came to an end and he was robbed through investment schemes, costing him most of the fortune he had amassed in his life.
Soon after losing everything, with his faith in God on trial, the inventor who had done very well in the medical optic's industry found himself on the streets. Within a short time he was living out of a dumpster, or any other suitable place he could find, and starting to understand how the cruel streets would take a low person and drag them even lower.
"My biggest fear was that I'd lose my faith," Williams said.
One fateful night in August of 2012, his faith was put on trial in a way that it had never been before for Williams.
On that night, Williams thought he would sleep in the park, near a rose garden, but was awakened when two thieves started kicking him viciously in the groin, making off with his laptop and other belongings in the process.
He woke up as they brutally attacked him.
"They were kicking me, just stomping me," he said. He thought the two men were going to kill him, and part of him wanted them to.
"Part of me wanted to die, wanted them to kick me harder and kill me, because I couldn't do it myself," he said years later.
After they left, he stumbled about two miles to a nearby hospital.
Williams now knows God was at work that night, and acknowledges that his faith has been strengthened because of it, and he is fueled by his want to help others survive on the streets.
"it took those guys who beat me up for me to meet Dr. Chen," he said later.
A 72-year-old Christian urologist with an easy disposition, Jong L. Chen later operated on the homeless man's damaged prostate - treating him "with total respect and love," Williams said.
Then Chen, acting on his faith, poured more of his life into the destitute inventor.
Today, the two are business partners in a start-up venture that wants to use Williams' insights gained from his horrible ordeal as a homeless person to help others. Thanks to Chen's generosity, Williams also now has a roof over his head, and plans to use his life to benefit his fellow man.
To hear Williams is to understand his passion for the state of the homeless in America. To hear his stories brings an understanding of the suffering the poor, homeless individuals have to endure.
He sees corruption in the system on all levels. He tells stories of mean-spirited police who just wanted him to leave town, and were willing to hurt or intimidate him to do it, and stories of corrupt 'good ole boy' administrators, making money off the millions of dollars dumped on the problem each year that are misappropriated. He remembers one particulary cruel policeman who made him sit under rain and runoff for hours to try and bully Williams into leaving the area.
"I got pneumonia after that night," Williams said.
He looks at the streets as a cage created by the "solution", or lack thereof.
"Once you become a non tax paying citizen in society, you become worse than a dog," he said.
He believes a real Humane Society for the homeless would be a better solution than what is done now.
"We have humane societies and places to treat homeless animals, why not people," he ask.
He wants to form a community of homeless people, to share in the burden and benefit of communal living. He wants to house them in a unique survival pod he has invented.
He and another advocate and investor, Ravi Mehta, are working together to use his ideas to create a low cost structure that could keep a person safe and provide them a place to get back on their feet. Williams had the idea when he was living in a 6x6 dumpster, even drawing up plans for the unit.
The small unit would have a chemical toilet, air conditioning if needed, and solar to battery power supply. Williams says they are secure and fire retardant, too.
With Dr. Chen's help, they started working on a prototype of the unit. They envisioned more applications for the unit too, such as FEMA using them for emergency housing, and migrant workers using them in the fields where they work.
Migrant workers are basically homeless workers who could really benefit from something like this," Williams said.
"God, loves the homeless people," Williams said. And apparently, no matter the tortures he endured on the streets, Williams does, too. He knows the truth about homelessness now, and believes if others could see it from his perspective, they would want his project to take off, too. The truth could also set them free from misconceptions about the homeless community.
"I know we can get it done, if we can get the word out," he said.
He is praying for a land donation, or other investors and backers to come forward, anyone who can help him he said. If you would like to help please contact him at [email protected].
[Gospel Herald Correspondent Edward Shih contributed to the report.]