Jasmine has two children — Oliver, who is 3 1/2 years old and Kira, who is six months old. A stay-at-home mom, she arrives each morning at Wellspring with Jasmine in a blue denim baby harness.
Here, they grab breakfast and lavish in the breakfast spot’s warmth.
Jasmine, Kira, Oliver and dad, Tip, live in an old house in Oak Park with venerable character that is currently without heat because they can’t afford to the pay the bill.
Tip is between jobs. When he was unable to make child support payments to his previous wife, the county froze all their assets.
They can’t drive their car because they can’t afford gasoline and have been living off the generosity of friends and family and community institutions like Wellspring Women’s Center and the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services for the past six weeks.
Jasmine first heard about Wellspring from her neighbor Pam.
“Being a normal middle class person in a normal middle class life suddenly thrust into poverty has really opened my eyes to what a struggle it can be to meet the daily needs of your life like having food, keeping your kids fed and being warm and dry,” she said. “It is a terrible, terrible thing to be cold.”
“We had no money for anything – no cash for bills, we couldn’t even pay our mortgage,” she said. “I couldn’t pay for my tiny credit card so we had no access to anything – no fuel, no heat, nothing.”
Jasmine and her husband are waiting to go to court to contest that the county seized their bank accounts and savings without giving them a nest egg to live on.
How has your situation affected your mental state?
“It’s very stressful,” she said. “A week after it happened when we just had so little food, my son looked at me and said, ‘Mommy, my tummy hurts because I’ve had so little food and I am so hungry.’ That was probably one of the worst moments of my life.”
She and her husband are college educated. She majored in biology at San Diego State University and he has a master’s degree in business management.
“Because of our income, we don’t qualify for WIC or food stamps,” she said. “I understand that the government has requirements for a reason, but it is really nice to have places like Wellspring where people can get support through private funds, because you just can’t know everybody’s story or what they need.”
“All the hoops that you need to go through to access some government programs make you feel like you are not worth as much as human being,” Jasmine said. “You feel like you are just a number and people look down upon you if you need help. It really shouldn’t be that way because you never know the road that someone has traveled – where it has taken them, how hard they have worked and what things have happened to them that have put them where they might need a little help. It really makes you feel like you have failed somehow even though you may have tried in your life to do everything right – go to school, get a job, buy a house, have kids and then tragedy can just strike at any time.”
“Finding Wellspring was like turning over a rock and finding a little bit of money that you didn’t that know you had,” Jasmine said. “Wellspring is like a little treasure. It’s great. I just walk in, we eat and they can play and everyone is happy. People are nice and people from all walks of life are here. You don’t feel like you are judged or looked down upon. It’s warm. Your heart just breaks for people who have less than you – you may not have ever thought about them until you sit across them from the table and look their situation in the face — how horrible it would be to be homeless with your kids. Where would you go? What would you do? Where would their toys be? How would you wash their clothes? How would you be warm? How would you be dry?”