My Story: Robert Williamson

I am a veteran of the United States Army. I have a history of alcohol and substance abuse. This ugly disease eventually cost me everything. I lost my family, my job, my home, my dignity and self-respect. I found myself homeless and living on the streets of Fresno. I lived on the streets of Fresno for over five years.

I did whatever I had to do to survive. The longer I was on the streets, the more desperate I became in finding ways to survive. Eventually, I found myself in some serious legal trouble and facing prison. I was afforded the opportunity by the judge to attend a six-month rehabilitation program at the Veterans Affairs  in Menlo Park, CA.

Once I found myself in a veterans rehabilitation program, I found myself facing numerous barriers in integrating myself back into society. The largest of these barriers was employment. My fear was that nobody would hire a recently convicted felon that hadn’t held any type of job for over five years. Eventually, I was referred to Goodwill of Silicon Valley for assistance in their Veterans Individualized Placement (VIP) program. With a little help and encouragement, I was able to land a job at Starbucks.

In June of 2009, a business developer position at Goodwill for the VIP Program was open and I was encouraged to apply. I was given an interview and did my best to convince the panel that I would be the perfect candidate for the position. Who better to know the obstacles and barriers of the veterans Goodwill served than me?

Robert Williamson assists a veteran job seeker at Goodwill of Silicon Valley.
Robert Williamson assists a veteran job seeker at Goodwill of Silicon Valley.

Much to my surprise, I was given the opportunity and hired. I started my first day at Goodwill on July 2, 2009. In April of 2010, I was appointed interim program manager and in July of 2010 was promoted to VIP program manager.

During my time at Goodwill, many positive things have happened in my life. First and foremost, my 15-year-old son has come to live with me. All three of my children have come back into my life. I was accepted to San Jose State University and into the social work program where I maintain a 3.96 GPA. I am a mentor in the Santa Clara County Veterans Treatment Court.

Most of all, Goodwill has meant a life that I would never have imagined was possible. Goodwill’s belief in me has allowed me to pass along my courage, strength, and hope to other veterans facing the same challenges that I faced not too long ago.

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