He was once homeless himself.
Howard plays a pivotal role in the Washington National Opera's revival of "Don Giovanni".
He grew up only a few miles away, in a poor family.
"I'm from southeast D.C., so I grew up seeing rough things, neighborhoods that were very bad," he said. "I witnessed my first murder, when I was about seven."
Howard was the oldest of seven children.
Despite his family's best efforts, they lost their home.
"Stayed with families, sometimes walked the streets until we could find something...ate off of the food trucks, Salvation Army," he said. "So, there was a lot that I went through as a child and I believe a lot of these things and experiences have made me stronger."
It was a high school teacher that recognized his talent, which he then developed at Morgan State University, where he was given a full scholarship to sing in the choir and travel the world.
Now he's performing at the Kennedy Center, hoping that his hardships growing up will inspire others.
"This is my hometown, and I've often said this is the place where I was birthed. So for my career to be birthed in the same place means the world to me," Howard said.
(Copyright © 2012 NBC Universal, All Rights Reserved)