Ken Williams’s new book, Shattered Dreams: A Story of the Streets, is a semi-autobiographical account of his experiences as a social worker in Santa Barbara over the past thirty years. In this, his second novel, Williams aims to shed a human, sympathetic light on the city’s homeless, concentrating on evoking an emotional response from Santa Barbara readers to an issue which is very much close to home. “We tend to dehumanize them,” said Williams, adding that people who are homeless are often intelligent and extremely literate. “They pass around my book, trying to find ways to get a hold of one,” he said. “It’s very touching.”
Although the book is just out, Williams is already getting a big response, “A woman who works with the homeless in Santa Barbara told me that it made her nights uncomfortable,” Williams said, explaining that her reaction was caused by the shock of reading some of the true stories in Shattered Dreams, including one of a homeless man who was kicked to death. By revealing some of the horrors of living on the streets, Williams hopes to remind the people of Santa Barbara that homelessness is an ongoing problem, and that pretending it is not an issue will not make it go away, “People here try to ignore the homeless,” Williams said, adding that it’s in a prosperous city like ours where he feels the greatest need to raise awareness. “Santa Barbara is a strong and affluent community,” he noted, “and yet we have a huge problem with homelessness.” Williams is interested in the contradiction between Santa Barbara’s physical beauty and the suffering that is so prevalent in life on its very streets. The fact that people in such an educated and wealthy community are actually going food baffles the author. “In a place like Santa Barbara, no one expects to people to be homeless or hungry, but it’s simply not the case,” he said. “Unfortunately, we tend to turn a blind eye to the homeless who are in need.”
411: Shattered Dreams is available in Santa Barbara at Chaucer’s, The Book Den, and Borders, as well as at Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. Williams will be holding a book signing and discussion at Borders in downtown Santa Barbara on Thursday, February 14th at 7:30pm. For more information, call 899-3668.
Maude Kusserow is an Independent intern.