Eleven years ago, Pam discovered Wellspring while she was walking down 4th Street. A volunteer encouraged her to come in for coffee.
She walked through Wellspring’s doors and reflects that in this moment, she was given one of the most wonderful gifts of her life.
“You know that they say that Disneyland is the greatest place on earth?” Pam asked. “We’ve got you beat, because we have Wellspring.”
“When I first walked in, these people did not judge me by the way I looked, dressed or by my situation,” she said. “They accepted me as I was. They’ve helped me with housing. They’ve helped me feel better. I will come cry on their shoulder. They don’t have to be concerned about my situation, but they are. They don’t have to care about us, but they do. When you come in here, you feel their love.”
Pam was homeless for three years and her experience of homelessness clouded her skies. She speaks about homelessness eloquently and elevates the scope of the crisis beyond discussions of politics and charity to its true nature – inhumanity.
“There is so much more to being homeless than people think,” she mused. “When you are homeless, you feel like dirt. People don’t see you as a human being. They walk over you. They say ugly things to you. They make terrible remarks about the way you look or the way you dress. There is nowhere for you to go where you know that you will be okay. You can feel safe, but you don’t really feel safe when you are out there – sleeping in an abandoned driveway. You have nowhere to put your belongings – you can hide them in a bush and hope that they are there when you get back. There is nowhere for you to shower every day. There is nowhere for you to get clean clothes or food. There are times when you are so hungry that a stale piece of bread tastes good. When there is no food, you go to sleep and you wake up hungry. You can’t be good when you are in that situation. People say things that repeat in your head again and again. They make you feel like you are not worthy of even having a life. It makes you wonder how human beings can forget that we are all here together. Wellspring helped me accept all of that, but they also helped me move past that. They taught me to forgive – to forgive everything.”
“Once you experience Wellspring, you take away love from here,” she stated. “I probably would have already tried to do myself in as bad as I was going, but they helped me go beyond that. This is a place where you can be yourself – fall apart if you want to – and they are going to help you, piece by piece put yourself back together. They will listen to every one of your problems – no matter how silly they are.”
“When you get to know Wellspring, you really get to know true love,” she reflected.
Pam was able to get housing through Wellspring’s partnership with SHRA’s Shelter Plus Program. It has afforded Pam a new chance to reinvent herself.
“I can put myself back together now,” Pam said. “I don’t feel like I am destitute. I don’t feel like I am never going to be okay. Wellspring was the beginning of making me feel better about my life. I am able to go out there and get a job, sell myself and feel good about myself. To wake up in my own place and not to have to wake up in the rain is such a blessing. When you are homeless and you finally get a place to live – it is like being a little kid and being given an ice cream cone. That smile that children get on their face – that’s how I feel every day when I wake up.”
What are your aspirations?
“Every day to just do a little bit better than I did the day before,” she said. “Wellspring has taught me to smile a lot more. I am more willing to say hi to a total stranger than I was before. I am more willing to listen to people than I ever was before. I think that Wellspring gave me that – that ability to be positive and happy. Having my own place has made me extremely happy.”
“I know that my family loves me, but I know for sure that Wellspring loves me,” she said. “Sometimes you just can’t get that love from your family. But, you get that at Wellspring and they make you a better person. I never would have thought that I would care about the things that I care about today. I care about how people feel. I will talk to people who are so depressed out here on the streets because they need someone to talk to. I want to make other people know that it’s not the end.”
What do you say to people who you pass on the street?
“I’ll ask them if they want to talk because you know, sometimes you just need somebody to listen to, I’ve realized that a smile goes a long way,” Pam said. “A smile at a stranger is the greatest gift that you can give to somebody. There are a lot of elderly that I see on the bus. They look so lonely, but when you smile at them – they smile back and their eyes light up. By coming to Wellspring, I’ve been able to open my mind to feeling that I can give to other people the blessing that Wellspring has given to me.”
“If people were more like the people at Wellspring, I think our society would be a better place for everybody,” Pam said. “I think there would be less hate and less ugliness. They don’t ask for anything – all they ask is for us to be okay. What more beautiful people can you meet than that?”