LOS ANGELES — Not all superheroes wear capes. On a cloudy Saturday morning in West Los Angeles, Yuri Williams is dressed like a Star Wars Scout Trooper with Baby Yoda at his side as he gets ready to visit homeless veterans.
It is not the first time Williams has dressed up as a superhero, ready to use his superpowers.
"This is my superpower, helping people," Williams said. "I just want this world and humanity to come together as one and start helping everybody out."
He said the idea came to him during one of the most challenging times in his life when his mom died of cancer in 2009.
"I never knew what depression was until I lost my mom, and I finally realized that I [couldn't] live life like this, and my mom always told me to give," he said.
He challenged his grief and created a nonprofit called A Future Superhero and Friends. Williams spends his free time helping the homeless and veterans and visiting sick children in hospitals.
On a recent Saturday, he checked in on homeless veterans who live in tents outside the gates of the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus. Williams made sure they received food, clothing, and a haircut, but more importantly, he lends an ear.
"The thing about me, I don't assume or judge people, so I try to build a relationship with them first and then, you know, keep coming back and keeping coming back so I can gain their trust," he said. "Once I gain your trust, I'm able to help you with your problems and get you the services that you need."
Williams grew up in South Central Los Angeles and followed his mother's footsteps – becoming a juvenile probation officer working with troubled teens. He has been doing that for over two decades. Williams knows how to get through to people, even if that means dressing up as Spider-Man or Deadpool.
He may get some strange reactions, but he connects with those he said are forgotten, like homeless people.
"You'll get a laugh and then, like, who is under there, you know?" Williams said. "They want to know who is under there and some people, it brings them back to their childhood."
Williams pours his own money into his nonprofit, often buying food, toys, or backpacks for kids to give away throughout the year.
"Every morning, I'm working from 6 a.m. until 10 at night," he said. "Even when I get off work, I'll stop by and help out somebody I see on the street before I go home."
When he runs a little short on funds or energy, he reaches into his heart for inspiration.
"I just think about my mom and all that she's done for me, you know," William said, wiping away tears. "I put her on my back and just lead the way."