Friend wants to honor homeless veteran, help others

Friend wants to honor homeless veteran, help others

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - John Presco raised the flag Monday to remember his friend, Hollis Williams.

Presco hopes in the next few months he can raise enough money that Williams' death will not have been in vain.

"He doesn't have a home right now. He's homeless in a morgue and I'm entering my anger stage on that," said a downcast Presco.

It's anger that he's working out with a hammer. Presco mounted a new U.S. flag this Monday, raising Old Glory for the friend he lost Friday morning.

Presco said he found the 58-year-old Williams dead in his apartment Friday - an apartment Williams had moved into only 2 months ago.

According to other vets, Williams was well known in the homeless community who was often at a nearby Safeway store, collecting cans.

Now, a makeshift altar is set up in a vacant Laura Street building that Presco says was briefly used to hand out clothes to the homeless.

Presco wants the memory of his best friend to live on. His dream is for a veterans "stand-down" center that bears the name of Hollis Williams.

Presco said he wants to copy "stand-downs" held in Lane, Douglas and surrounding counties, to connect vets with mental health services, haircuts, job training and more.

"We got to let our veterans know that they haven't fought in vain and that we care for them," Presco said.

He said he doesn't know where he'll find the support or how long it will take - but to remember his longtime friend, he won't give up easily.

"I suffered some homelessness and abandonment and stuff like that," Presco said, "so I'm not going to abandon my friend."

The property and house on Laura Street is being sold, so locating a center there is unlikely. Presco said that's the kind of layout he's looking for.

Services for Hollis Williams will be next Sunday 1:30 p.m. at Campbell Senior Center in Eugene.