Rising above poverty
Being homeless with a 4-year-old son would be enough to make anyone depressed or unmotivated, but for David Watson, giving up was never an option.
After his ex-wife took off in the family vehicle, Watson and his son Caleb were left to fend for themselves in Alabama.
“This had never happened to me,” Watson began. “I’ve always worked and had a home, even if I rented.”
Watson, 35, then decided to move to Bryson City to be closer to his mother.
“I left Alabama with nothing except my son,” Watson said. “I came home and everything was gone. My mom said, ‘Move up here.’ So I did. I knew that had to be temporary.”
Not wanting to become a burden, Watson left Bryson City last October because no construction jobs were available. Watson has worked in construction since he was 18.
“I ended up in Waynesville with a box of small toys and our clothes in backpacks,” he said.
Watson came to Waynesville because he had heard about the Haywood Christian Emergency Shelter. But as luck would have it, Watson and his son only had to spend three nights in the shelter.
“That was the first thing I did,” Watson said about going to the shelter. “Seven p.m. to 7 a.m. is only time I could be there. So I knew I had to do something quick. I couldn't be homeless. I went up to (The Department of Social Services) to find resources that would help me get off the streets. And I tried to find (Caleb) day care so I could find a job.”
Susan Anderson, director of Haywood Transit with Mountain Projects Inc, decided to reach out to Watson after noticing him and Caleb walking around in the cold.
“I walked many miles with that kid,” Watson added.
Anderson brought Watson to The Open Door ministry, where the two were fed and offered help. From that point, Watson remained in contact with The Open Door and Mountain Projects.
“Various people helped make connections so I could get medical care and enroll my son in Southwestern Child Development,” Watson said. “That allowed him to be with other children his own age and have a daily routine. It was wonderful to have some contacts and encouragement.”
Watson was able to find employment through a 90-day construction program, with help from Perry Hines, director of The Open Door. Mountain Projects’ was also able to find Watson a two-bedroom apartment.
“I took every odd job I could to earn extra money,” Watson said. “Sometimes I walked. Sometimes Haywood Transit or an employee would give me a ride. The extra work was enough to pay my start up expenses.”
Today Watson works full-time at Jose’s Cabinet Shop. With income from his full-time and part-time work, Watson was able to purchase a used vehicle.
Anderson said the community had pulled together to help Watson, but added that his motivation had made his success possible.
“When David tells you he's going to do something, he does it,” Anderson said. “You can see something special about someone when they really have the desire to change their life. David is making good choices. He’s levelheaded, responsible and really trying to do the right thing. ”
Watson said being homeless was never an option for him.
“Not every person who ends up homeless is there because they want to be,” he said. “Thanks to caring kind people, I have been able to make connections throughout the community to rise above a bad situation. I am not afraid of hard work, and I feel better about myself when I can provide.”
Continuing his success
In the fall, Watson plans to participate in Circles of Hope, a program that helps families get completely out of poverty and builds new systems of support that will help them achieve economic stability.
Watson will become a group “leader” and will have a support system of allies to help him achieve his goals.
Millie Hershenson, Circles of Hope coordinator, said Watson was an ideal candidate for Circles of Hope.
“David is a good example of someone who can benefit from Circles of Hope,” Hershenson said. “This is keeping him and his family moving forward. If he were to have a setback of some kind, he would have these allies to go to. People from all walks of life in the community come surround him with support and build on positive relationships. A lot of times, allies end up becoming good friends.”
Watson credits all of his motivation to Caleb.
“My son was the main thing,” Watson said. “I’ve never been in that situation before, but I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. You’ve just got to keep your head up and keep digging at it to find those resources.”
Watson said the best feeling was having his independence back.
“I've got my own place, got a vehicle, and got my license back,” he said. “And (Caleb) is starting school this year. We’ve got a real sense of security.”
Watson is continuing to take odd jobs to support his salary. He said the best thing he has ever done was move to Haywood County.
He said he was determined to create a better life for his son, no matter what his situation might be.
“I wasn't going to let it get me down, and I wasn’t going to let him down,” Watson said while pointing to his son. “You can’t just sit around. There’s resources out there — you’ve just got to get off your butt and take advantage of it.”