Coach Lawrence Williams, founder of Safe Haven, stands before his facility that will offer hope and a second chance to young men in the streets. Photos by Vivian Shipe

By Vivian Shipe

KNOXVILLE, TN — Relationship and trust. That is what Coach Lawrence Williams says is what it will take to turn the tide of young men who are joining

Common area for young men to gather at Safe Haven.

gangs at an alarming rate in Knoxville and across the nation. Williams says there has to be something offered instead of the life of gang banging and those who offer it must be sincere and not judgemental of the young men who come in off the streets looking for an alternative.

Coach Williams who is the founder of World United, a nonprofit that has for decades worked in the streets to save the lives of youths who get caught up in the gang life and to get guns off the streets of Knoxville, knows what he is talking about having come from that life himself long ago. 

Knoxville has had six murders in the last eleven days involving youth. Williams chooses to see the good in the kids attracted to the gang life and is fighting for them to lay their guns down and choose to live.

He speaks of the life and advantages most people take for granted mentioning that many of the young men he

One of the sleeping areas for the youth at Safe Haven.

comes in contact with would consider it a miracle to just have a hot meal or a safe space to sleep or even someone in their lives who cared about them on a regular basis. On Oct. 15, that opportunity will be afforded them when Safe Haven opens.

Coach Williams, as he is known by those in the streets, is offering a place where young men between the ages of 10 and 19 can come to start that new life. The space will have an area to watch television,  do computer work, play pool and other game.There are sleeping areas that will hold 10 young men at a time and they will be fed 3 hot meals every day as they will have structure, learn life skills and a new way of living. 

“Love is the key.” Williams said. His organization is a faith-based mission, but he believes he will turn the young men, not by his words, but by the actions of love and care they will receive from him and from the organizations that will partner with him to give them a life other than guns, drugs, and death.

“Everyone deserves another chance.” Williams said. Safe Haven has need of staple goods like toiletries, bedding for bunk beds, kitchen ware, games and other house hold items. For a complete list, please contact Coach Williams at 865-661-2533.