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Social Work Means Showing Up


The mother and her two daughters had been sleeping in their van, but that night the van would not start, and they had no way to get heat. A storm had moved into western Washington and the family was cold and had nowhere else to turn.

Something special happens when we show up for other people. Showing up means thinking outside of ourselves. It requires us to be vulnerable, and to give of our personal time and energy. Showing up takes courage, develops character, and creates empathy. But most of all—showing up builds human connections. At Wellspring, our staff continually show up for families in crisis.

A recent example was when our staff showed up on a cold, wet, and windy night to help a single mother and her two daughters. The family had just been referred to Wellspring through a unique partnership with Tacoma Public Schools—the Tacoma Schools Housing Assistance Program. The family was a new referral and the mother had scheduled an initial appointment with Rachael, one of our Housing Stability Specialists, for Friday of that week. But a few days before their meeting, around 7:00 p.m. on a Wednesday night, Rachael received a text from the mom asking if Wellspring could possibly get her family into a hotel that night.

The mother and her two daughters had been sleeping in their van, but that night it would not start, and they had no way to get heat. A storm had moved into Western Washington and the family was cold with nowhere else to turn.

When Rachael received the text, she had already left work for the day and was at her night class. Recognizing the mother’s urgent need, she contacted our Pierce County Program Manager, Calli, to see if Wellspring could get the family off the street that night. Calli was in West Seattle, and had already stopped work for the day, but she immediately began to support the family to get into a hotel that evening.

During this time, Rachael continued texting the mom from her night class. Briefly, the mother’s cell phone battery died, and she had to find a place to charge it, but Rachael was able to confirm that Wellspring would help them, and that she was able to find a hotel near their broken-down van.

After phoning the hotel to try and make arrangements for the family, Rachael was informed that a Wellspring representative would need to go in person to sign for the payment at the hotel. Her co-worker Calli agreed to drive from West Seattle to Tacoma to authorize payment arrangements.

It was after 10:00 p.m. when Calli arrived. She saw the mom, wrapped in a blanket, walking up a hill in the rain with her children. Because the family’s van broke down near the Tacoma Dome there was a large crowd of concertgoers flooding out of an event. “For a moment it just struck me to see so many people who were dressed nice, well fed, and having fun, and how that contrasted with the reality of this mom and her daughters,” Calli recalls. It was a sharp contrast showing the gap between the realities of the housed and people experiencing homelessness.

Once out of the storm, the family was able to get some food at the hotel while Calli set them up for a week’s stay which gave Wellspring time to find a more permanent housing situation that allowed the daughters to remain in school.

Even though it took a lot of coordination from a night class to an evening drive through a storm, it was good to see how this family went from being cold, worried, and anxious, to recognizing that there are people who are willing to show up and want to help. “We work with people,” Calli said “and that’s why we need to show up.”


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