When Sofia Andrade saw Glenn Williams panhandling out in the cold, she had just received one of the happiest surprises of her life.
The Wareham, Massachusetts, resident and single mom of three had just won $200 on a lottery ticket she had scratched off while waiting at a stop sign. “I don’t really buy them often because I don’t have the extra money, so when I won, I was just, like, super ecstatic,” Andrade told Upworthy.
Meanwhile, Williams was asking passing cars for loose change on one of the coldest nights of the year. The temperature would eventually hit -12 degrees in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he lived in a sleeping bag and tent, according to Andrade.
Andrade said she rolled down her window and offered to take him somewhere warm.
"She didn’t know me from a hole in the wall, and she bought me coffee," Williams told Upworthy.
They went to Dunkin' Donuts. Andrede said she called around to local homeless shelters, but they were all full, and Williams insisted he'd be fine back out on the street.
"I was like, 'I can’t let you go home. I can’t let you go back to the street. My soul won’t let me do that. Please let me do something for you,'" Andrade said.
Andrade drove Williams to the Rosewood Motel in Wareham, where she used her $200 lottery winnings to put him up for three nights.
According to Andrade, It was money she didn't really have to spare.
"I help as many people as I can, but as far as financially, my situation is very tight right now. I don’t have very much," Andrade said.
But having recently struggled with addiction herself, Andrade related to how it felt to be looked down on, cast off, and ignored — and how hard it is to ask for help.
"You have to show everybody compassion. It doesn’t matter what their background is. Everybody deserves respect."
Upworthy spoke to a manager at the Rosewood Motel, who confirmed that Williams stayed for three nights.
Andrade posted about her encounter with Williams on Facebook. After her post went viral, the motel was inundated with donations of food, clothing, and blankets from people in the area — too much, even, for Williams to carry.
Elizabeth Arone, a local barber and friend of Andrade's, volunteered to give Williams a haircut.
"He was just so grateful, and it was just a very emotional, intimate moment for both of us,” Arone told Upworthy.
Arone, who spent several months in her early 20s living in her car, has been donating haircuts to the homeless for several years. She said she felt an immediate kinship with Williams.
"I got out of the hole because of the tools I had acquired along the way," Arone said. "I knew what to do, and I knew how to do it. And I feel like a lot of people just don’t know that there’s help out there for them."
Arone took Williams to the Registry of Motor Vehicles for an ID and to a local hospital to sign up for Medicaid, and the two women launched a GoFundMe campaign with the intent to use the money to move Williams into stable housing. As of Feb. 17, 2016, they had raised over $15,000 from donors across the country.
“I’ve had messages from people in Texas, from Florida, from California, it’s insane. It’s so crazy," Andrede said.
Andrede and Arone say they plan to remain part of Williams' support system going forward, and they now consider him a friend.
"He’s the sweetest person to my kids. My 1-year-old, who is standoffish with everybody, just walks up to him and gives him hugs," Andrede said.
As survivors of difficult times themselves, both women were adamant that helping can be as simple as acknowledging someone's humanity — and that it doesn't matter how much cash you have on hand.
"Sometimes the people that have the least are the ones that are the most willing to help," Andrade said.
Williams insisted that while he's grateful for the donations and the fundraiser, he's not the only one who needs assistance getting back on his feet.
"There’s a lot of people [that people] don’t even know. They need help," Williams said.
He hopes that some of the money being raised on his behalf will go to help others in need.
Update 3/29/2016: Shortly after meeting Andrede and Arone, Williams was arrested for failing to register as a sex offender. According to an ABC News report, Williams was initially charged with indecent assault on a minor in 1994. On Facebook, Andrede wrote that despite not knowing about the charges, she doesn't regret assisting Williams: "We did not discriminate when helping another human in need." She said she planned to donate money raised on Williams' behalf to local homeless charities.
Williams maintains his innocence in a letter Arone submitted to South Coast Today on his behalf.