KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Lawrence Williams is a lifelong East Knoxville resident who regularly advocates for his community and speaks out against violent crime. His latest passion project is creating a safe space for Knoxville’s at-risk youth.
Located at 3010 Magnolia Ave., the house serves as a space for youth between the ages of 10 and 19. Williams says it will be a meeting spot where he can mentor Knoxville’s youth and teach them life skills, but he says it will also be a fun place to relax.
The house is equipped with TV’s, a pool table, Ms. Pac Man machine and more. Williams has turned one of the rooms into a computer lab that he wants kids and teens to use to do homework or apply for jobs. There is also a fully operating kitchen that he plans to use to serve hot meals every day.
Williams says he wants to focus on youth that the rest of the world has thrown away; youth who may have been in trouble before, or have taken a wrong turn in life. He wants to show them there is a better way.
“A lot of these young boys that’s out there doing a lot of things, have great potential. They’ve got great potential. They’re like diamonds. they just need to be polished off.” Williams said.
The house also has an upstairs apartment. Beds have been put in for nights when a young person may not have a place to stay.
This is something Williams has been working on for some time now. He says this is his way of giving back to the community that gave so much to him in his younger years.
Chief Eve Thomas says with the recent violence in the city, the Safe Haven is a step in the right direction.
“We don’t want anymore violence in the neighborhood and I think things like this really help that. And this also helps us to build relationships with people who are on that verge. These kids are on the verge, they could go that way or they could find something positive. And I think this place gives them that positive impetus they need.” Thomas said.