GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — County and city leaders are working to protect unsheltered people in Guilford County after Lanceford Williams, a man experiencing homelessness, was shot and killed at the intersection of Martin Luther King Drive and Carolyn Coleman Way in Greensboro.

Williams was a fixture in Downtown Greensboro for more than 20 years. He left an impact on almost everyone he came across.

City leaders say William’s death could have been avoided, and they have to do something soon to prevent losing another unsheltered person

For months, we’ve heard the conversations from the Guilford County Homeless Task Force about the problem in the county and passionate pleas from city council members.

“Unfortunately, Monday a man died on the street that was homeless, unhoused, whatever you want to call it. We have got to do better period,” City Councilman Zack Matheny said.

People who met Williams say they will remember his big smile and his larger-than-life personality.

Lanceford Williams (Photo courtesy of Ryan Bell)

“He was a fixture on Elm Street. He was different from everyone who was downtown,” Shawn Eisenbach said.

Eisenback leads operations for the Downtown Greensboro Hospitality team and met the 27-year-old nearly two years ago.

Normally, he would be greeted by Williams’ smile walking along South Elm Street. Instead Thursday morning, he saw a memorial outside the Green Bean Coffee Shop.

It’s the same place where people gathered for a vigil in his honor Wednesday night after he was shot and killed two days earlier.

What makes the situation even worse was that things were starting to look up for Williams. He was moments away from securing housing.

“On Friday, we joked about doing a housewarming party for him because he was that close. It took him many years,” Eisenbach said.

“He was almost there. He was helpable. There’s businesses he was helping to work and earn money. He would help out the restaurants in some cases, so he built some great relationships with businesses downtown…he seemed like he was right there on the cusp, and I don’t know if we let him down,” Matheny said.

The situation hits home for city leaders who have been fighting for change.

“We had a death two weeks ago from an unsheltered person…in Lance’s case once again, this loss happened, and we got word from many business owners who want to do something to help honor him. We’ve got to come together as a community and help folks who are in need,” Matheny said.

We also reached out to Partners Ending Homelessness to get a count of how many unhoused people died on our streets in the last year.

They only have numbers for people getting help from homeless services in Guilford County.

A spokesperson shared ten people died in 2022, and two have died so far this year.