Brianna first discovered Wellspring eight years ago. At the time, she was experiencing homelessness.
Her son, Masaias, is five years old.
“He goes to school at noon and we can’t go to school unless we go to Wellspring first,” she said. “It’s just the rule. It’s his rule. It really is awesome. He gets to come eat, get a full belly and run off some energy. When he goes to school, he is ready to learn.”
When Masaias was a baby, Brianna got diapers and baby wipes for him from Wellspring.
“If it wasn’t for Wellspring, there would have been times when he would have had to wear a diaper longer than he was supposed to,” she said. “I always had fresh diapers for him and wipes. I wouldn’t have been able to afford them. We have a family of four and we make less than $1100 a month. Our rent is $700 so we don’t have a lot extra at the end of the month. The community support like the Clothes Closet at Next Move, the Food Bank and Family Services makes it survivable. We don’t live high on the hog, but we are surviving.”
“Wellspring has helped me with so much,” Brianna said. “Going to Christmas Malls, counseling, the chiropractor. All the things that I probably wouldn’t get to do in my day to day life.”
The Christmas Mall is a gift giveaway celebration for the guests of Wellspring that is hosted by River City Christian Church each Christmas.
“Just recently, I brought home a comforter from Next Move,” she said. “I did wash it and dry it in our little apartment. We have one washer and dryer and they barely work. It ended up giving my house bed bugs. I came into explain to Genelle what had happened and she gave me a $25 gift card to Walmart and I was able to get all the spray I needed, the garbage bags, the bombs – everything.”
“There is a lot of support from the staff and volunteers, but also from the ladies that come here,” Brianna said. “We pool together … For example, there were a couple of times when I couldn’t get a bus pass and people in my same situation who were homeless and low-income have pulled three dollars out of their own pocket to help me get on the bus so that I can go where I need to go. It’s a beautiful thing because there is a sense of family here. A lot of people don’t have family. My son, for instance, doesn’t have direct aunties or uncles in his life, but, here, he has aunties and grandmas. If it wasn’t for this place, he wouldn’t have the village that it takes to raise a child.”
Brianna’s mom entered prison when she was two years old. While her mom was in prison, her grandparents took care of her. Once, her mom got out of prison her grandparents left Sacramento to travel the country in a trailer home. They left Brianna to live with her mom. Living with her mom wasn’t easy and Brianna left to live on the streets when she was 15 years old.
At 18 years old, she had her first child — a daughter.
When Brianna’s doctor’s prescribed her Vicodin after a car accident, she became addicted to the opiate. Soon, she turned to heroin because it was cheaper and more accessible than Vicodin.
“I lost jobs, a house and everything in my house that could be pawned or sold,” Brianna said. “I mean just that quick. I do take a lot of pride in the fact that I beat heroin addiction because a lot of people don’t.”
“Being on heroin left me close to homeless,” she said. “My husband ended up going to jail. I wasn’t sure that I was pregnant with my son. I went to Planned Parenthood and they told me, yes, that I was pregnant. On that day, I threw away all of my medications. I quit doing the drugs. I checked myself into a detox program and I’ve been on the methadone program ever since which is amazing. I’ve been able to turn my life around. I can stay clean.”
“I feel like when God gives you a baby, it’s a blessing,” she said.
Because of Brianna’s addiction, her daughter stopped living with her and moved in with her mother.
“I messed up with my daughter and I feel like I got a second chance and I didn’t want to ruin it,” Brianna said. “I stopped everything that I was doing and I made it all about him which in turn made my life better. He saved my life and we come here and we love it.”
“I always wear these to remind myself – this is ‘Recovery with Respect,’ ‘Created on Purpose for a Purpose’ and then ‘Be the Change You Want to See.’”
“I keep these even though I am almost 40 years old and wearing little plastic teenager bands,” she said. “I look at them and they remind me to stay on track when I have bad days.”
“I try to fill my time,” she said. “Because no matter how clean you’ve been or how much recovery time you’ve had, you still get urges in certain situations. Mine was stress.”
Two programs helped her cope with her new life – Women’s Empowerment and Wellspring’s intensive, expressive Art Therapy program.
“I started at Women’s Empowerment because getting off drugs also meant getting rid of old friends,” Brianna said. “My whole life was made up of my drug connections and you can’t be clean around the same people. It does not work. I had to learn to make positive friends who weren’t bad for me. At Women’s Empowerment, you can go into class and talk freely about your problems and get advice from other women of all walks of life. I ended up becoming friends with them. The class worked so good for me that they asked me to go back and be a helper and that made me feel good in itself.”
“I took the Art of Being class and it was amazing,” Brianna said. “I had never been in any kind of art class at all – the well-being part was what interested me. By the time that the class was over, I was so proud of the work that I had done emotionally and of the artwork that I created. To have these things that I didn’t know I could make hanging up in my home opened a new door in me. I discovered a new interest. Now, I do adult coloring books … When I am at home after cleaning and doing everything that I need to do, I color and color for hours. It relaxes me.”
What is your favorite piece of artwork that you made in the Art of Being program?
“It was a two-sided collage,” she said. “One was life before – sad, blues. The second was what you have learned. The second collage is like – you go girl and smiles and even to this day I like to look at the difference and ask myself ‘What kind of day are you going to have?’”
“To me, there is something special about Genelle [Wellspring’s Social Worker],” Brianna said. “She looks like she would be real square if you just saw her on the street and didn’t get to know her — like she would probably walk by a homeless man and grab her purse. But, she is the opposite way. She would be the person to ask the homeless man if he wanted something to eat or needed a ride. She just knows. She has no airs about her and no fear. Her heart is in it all the way. Sister Judy’s heart is too. Some of the women who come here are really hard to deal with and I could really see them turning them away for the greater good of everybody else, but they don’t do that. They bring them in. They help them work on what they need and then they aren’t a problem anymore. They are part of the group after that. I like that nobody is turned away.”