“When we come together as a neighborhood and one community, we just get things done.” This is Olgen Williams motto – one that has worked well as he’s helped reduce crime, violence, drug abuse and homicide in the Haughville neighborhood and throughout Central Indiana.
Although a dedicated community servant and activist now, Williams was part of the problem initially. After serving in the Vietnam War, Williams turned to drugs and ended up in prison. Once released, Williams says the Haughville community “circled the wagons around me and gave me some success in life.”
His success began as Executive Director for The Christamore House, a nonprofit that provides educational services, senior programming and life skills training to residents and families in Haughville and Near Westside neighborhoods. Williams knows that raising children in an urban community is not easy; he and his wife raised all 10 of their children in the Haughville community. “It’s not the zip code but the quality of life in your home that matters,” he said.
When he began at The Christamore House, Haughville had one of the highest crime rates nationally. To combat this issue, Williams focused on creating programs for youth, young men and ex-offenders that reduced violence and empowered people to make positive change. These organizations and program include Westside Concerned Dads, Hammer West, Peace in the Streets and Young Men on the Rise.
After serving nearly 12 years at The Christamore House, Williams’ work caught the eye of Mayor Greg Ballard, who appointed him as deputy mayor of neighborhoods in 2007. Williams remembers Mayor Ballard telling him, “Look at the city, the whole city is yours and now your neighborhood.” As deputy mayor, Williams strengthened neighborhoods throughout Central Indiana, using his knowledge from his time at The Christamore House to address big issues in Indianapolis.
“Going from Vietnam, to prison, to getting two doctorates and becoming deputy mayor, it all happened because of God’s help and the people who allowed me to work with them and for them,” Williams said. He reflects on his life and shares how others can carve their own path to becoming a community activist in his book, Healing the Heart, Healing the Hood. He hopes it inspires others to realize that “we are all in this together; we may have different methodologies, but we can only reach our goals if we work together.”