'We do this to say, "Come be happy. Let us take care of you."'
Hosea Williams once had an interaction with a homeless man that changed his life — and his family — forever.
That day, he came across a man eating out of a garbage can, so he decided to buy him a sandwich. The man was so hungry he ate right through the wax paper to get to the food.
Williams was so struck by the experience that he immediately decided to do something to help on a larger scale. And as a national field officer for Martin Luther King Jr., he was no stranger to rallying humanitarian efforts. That Sunday, he and his family fed 100 homeless and hungry people.
Hosea Williams. All photos via State Farm.
And that was just the beginning of their work.
They soon started a nonprofit called Hosea Helps to keep their mission going to help the homeless and hungry. Now, over 40 years later, his daughter, Elisabeth Omilami, is at its helm.
Thanks to tireless efforts and thousands of volunteers, they've fed over 500,000 people since 1971.
Hosea Helps volunteers.
"We were there for Katrina. We were there for Flint, Michigan. We were there for Haiti and the Philippines, Uganda. We were there," Elisabeth says.
However, aside from helping during large-scale humanitarian crises, the organization shines on national holidays.
One of their biggest events happens on Thanksgiving. They serve Thanksgiving dinner to thousands of people at one time, and they can enjoy it while listening to live music.
They also give access to hot showers, clothing, toiletries, medical examinations, legal advice, job placement, chiropractor services, housing consultation, and counseling free of charge to those who need it.
"We do this to say, 'Come be happy. Let us take care of you,'" Elisabeth says.
Considering all they do, it's heartbreaking to learn Hosea Helps itself lost its home recently.
Hosea Helps volunteer closing down their original space.
They were given 30 days to vacate the space they'd been occupying for over 26 years. It was the same building where Elisabeth's father Hosea's offices once were.
Because of this major setback, the Omilamis weren't sure the organization was going to make it through the year.
However, thankfully, there's a new generation stepping up to the plate to make a difference.
Elisabeth's son, Awodele, is going to be taking over Hosea Helps and already has big plans for the nonprofit. He's been helping the homeless since he was a boy and will pick up the torch by spearheading renovations in their new building.
"We sold everything — we had just to get that building — but it was worth it to secure the future of our organization," Elisabeth says.
Jeremy Austin, one of Hosea Helps' volunteers.
They have high hopes for the new space, but they also have some incredible volunteers — many of whom used to be homeless themselves.
"When I got help, it was more than just food," says Jeremy Austin, one of Hosea Helps' volunteers who used to be homeless. "They actually helped me find a job. They pretty much changed my life."
Hosea Helps has 18 different programs designed to help solve the problems facing families and individuals who are living in poverty and may be facing homelessness.
Some of these programs are research-based while others are putting plans into action designed to ease the burden of poverty, but all programs are aimed at turning around the homelessness epidemic.
A child and grandmother at a Hosea Helps event.
"We’re all one big family," says Sean Peek, another volunteer. "We have to help each other out."
There's still a lot that needs to be done for Hosea Helps to get back on track, but the Omilamis aren't worried. They'll always find a way.
"Even if the future holds us having to make bologna sandwiches and take them under the bridge, then that’s what we’ll do," says Afemo.
Despite all that organizations like Hosea Helps do, homelessness remains an enormous problem in America. If you want to lend a hand, there are so many ways for you to get involved. Check out Hosea Helps' website for more details.
Learn more about their work here: