Willie Taylor was 14 years old when he first started doing drugs. At age 17, he stole something for drugs for the first time. He was in and out of jail, homeless and hungry for much of his life. The last time he went to jail, he was 38 years old and came out ten years later. When he was paroled he knew he had to make some serious changes in his life.
One night at a shelter, Willie saw a man dressed in blue, pushing a bucket. Willie asked him what program he was in and the man told him about what is now the Ready, Willing & Working program. That was nearly nine years ago. Fast forward to 2016 – Willie is still here today. “Pushing my bucket on the streets of Capitol Hill has taught me patience and responsibility,” Willie said. “Working is a confidence builder. I’m not living off the city – I’m working for the city.”
Not only is Willie still employed with Ready, Willing & Working, but he has built an amazing life for himself and his beautiful wife. Back in 2008, Willie moved from transitional housing into his very own apartment. After a few more moves, he was introduced to an elderly couple, Joe and Marie Freeman, who had an apartment available in the building that they owned. Without hesitation, Willie signed the lease and moved into the building. The couple took a liking to Willie and treated him like their son.
After a few years, Mr. and Mrs. Freeman become ill and it was now Willie’s turn to take care of them. Mr. Freeman sadly passed away and as his last request, asked Willie take care of Marie. Willie was happy to keep his promise and did everything he could to take care of Mrs. Freeman, carrying her up and down the stairs each day, driving her to doctor’s appointments, etc. When Marie passed away, Willie learned that the Freemans left the entire apartment building to him! He is now the proud owner and manager of the 4-unit building in Northeast.
Not only does Willie own his own apartment building and work for the Capitol Hill BID, but he also has his own landscaping business on the side. “It started out with me on my bike with a rake, cleaning yards in Capitol Hill,” Willie said. “I never thought it’d grow to become this.” Willie eventually got so many requests for landscaping work that he bought a Ford Ranger to help get him and his tools to and from job sites. After the Ranger served its purpose, it was time for a new truck. This past year he purchased a 2014 Ford F150 for his business.
Willie credits the Capitol Hill BID and Ready, Willing & Working for much of his transformation. “As a member of the Clean Team, I’m surrounded by people who want to do the same thing I do, who want to change their life,” Willie said. “We feed off of each other’s success. It helps me to stay focused.” While the program gave Willie the tools he needed, his determination and tireless work ethic got him to where he is today. Willie is a fantastic example that with hard work and perseverance, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. He has overcome many obstacles in his life and is an excellent role model for our Men in Blue, and all of us!