Vendor Profile: Derek Williams

12 Sept 2016: San Francisco, CA. Street Sheet vendors shot at the office. Derek Williams

Derek Williams is a writer and vendor for the Street Sheet. Recently he’s been working on an article about homelessness in the Castro. Many of the homeless community have moved into the Castro and he sought out to find out how this was affecting both the homeless and the residents of the Castro. He was surprised in finding that most residents of the Castro really don’t mind. He described to me how residents seem to care more about how homelessness is affecting the homeless rather than how they are affecting the neighborhood. Many residents expressed concern and a desire to help.  

Derek gave me his own insights on the matter.

“I was really surprised by the Castro being upper-class white neighborhood really cared for them. More than they cared for the neighborhood. It’s like a utopian feeling. The LGBTQ community understands the ways in which a people can be marginalized. So rather than treat them poorly they try to understand because they do understand in a way. Not part of the mainstream parts of societies.”

Derek is originally from Inglewood, California, in Los Angeles county. However, he grew up in San Francisco after being adopted by distant relatives. As a young adult, he worked many different types of jobs from painting to data entry to financial services. He worked an office job right out of high school and describes it as the best job he ever had. He had a special relationship to his boss there who fell ill and gave Derek the responsibility of keeping the office open and running. Despite having so many jobs, he has struggled with consistent housing over the years and is able to empathize with so many of the members of the homeless community. Understanding the hardships of financial instability is part of what makes Derek a good writer for the Street Sheet. He enjoys writing for the Street Sheet.

“I feel passionate about what I write, and I feel like it does in fact make an impact. It’s a good feeling,” he says.

In addition to writing for the Street Sheet, Derek is also a musician. He started out playing guitar and bass. He describes his style as a mix between rock and jazz. He has taken up the keyboard recently though, and hopes to try his hand at gospel music. I asked Derek to reflect on some of the lessons he’s learned over the years and what he would pass on to others.

“One of the things I learned from living on the streets is you can never really trust somebody to help you,” he says. “Never trust people to back you up all the way. You have to trust yourself. If you trust somebody to have you as their primary concern, it’s really their choice to do that so when somebody does do it, you can trust that person. But you have to wait for somebody to show you that. It has to be proven. You are in control. It’s all about being independent but still accepting of help and love when it’s warranted.”