For over 30 years, Gwendolyn has been coming to Wellspring. Her mom brought her to the drop-in breakfast Center as a child.
“We would come in here every morning before I came to school and I would have my breakfast, my cereal, my milk, my toast and my orange juice,” she said.
“Everything is still the same as it was when I was a little girl,” Gwendolyn said. “Lots of new faces and it has grown a lot and it has really done a lot for a lot of the homeless women here. The Center provides a lot. I think if my mom were still alive, she would still be coming here.”
Gwendolyn said that the many Wellspring celebrations that she attended always signified to her that there were more celebrations to come.
“Every celebration is a growth,” Gwendolyn elaborated. “Another hurdle that is worth jumping over.”
She is currently experiencing homelessness and her mom, the love of her life passed away over three years ago.
“My mom meant the world to me,” Gwendolyn said. “She is my best friend.”
Gwendolyn has been homeless for over two years.
“Wellspring has had a big impact on me,” Gwendolyn added. “Since I have been homeless they have just been wonderful. They haven’t changed one bit – not one bit.”
Experiencing homelessness has been an eye opener for Gwendolyn, she has learned to be appreciative of just waking up in the morning. Gwendolyn’s dog Cincoda, Cinco for short, and the women of Wellspring give her motivation to greet the morning.
Gwendolyn believes that God brought Cinco into her life.
She travels everywhere with Cinco– a loyal Pitbull who is sweet as pie. As I was interviewing Gwendolyn, Cinco was perched on a fuzzy blanket complete with pillows and dog toys.
“I spoil her and she deserves so much more than that,” Gwendolyn said.
Her dream is to have a one bedroom apartment that she and Cinco can live out of.
Gwendolyn has been in and out of prison, but is certified to do small engine repairs and maintenance carpentry.
To survive on the streets, she does piecemeal work.
“I recycle,” Gwendolyn said. “I have a few trades that I do on the streets – as far as my community loving, if there weren’t such a good community around here, I probably would have been faded out [or dead].”
She said that prison was almost like Oak Park, but it had walls.
“Prison is what you make it,” Gwendolyn said. “You can do hard time or you can just do time – I just wanted to come home and see my mom and be with my family.”
What does Oak Park mean to you?
“History – that’s about all that I got left,” Gwendolyn said.
What was it like growing up in Oak Park?
“It was challenging,” Gwendolyn said. “There were a lot of hard times – black on white segregation. It made me aware and taught me to be aware of who I am and what I have.”
“Oak Park is like any other area,” she said. “You know what I’m saying. It depends on the people – it’s not the whole community, but you have a ton of people who are trying to create a name for themselves and it’s sad to say, but a lot of people suffer behind it. Oak Park is a beautiful place to raise your kids. If you want to be consistent and have a good understanding of what people have to offer then you believe in your community. Believing in Oak Park gives me hope.”
What do you appreciate about who you are?
“I appreciate the fact that I know the difference between someone needing something and someone just needing to be heard,” she said. “Even though, I am in crisis, I take the time to listen to the next voice. It could save a life or make a difference.”
This blog post was written by Corey Rodda. Corey is a former Vista Volunteer of Wellspring and has continued to volunteer for Wellspring in many wonderful ways.