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Social Work Means Showing Up

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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 a Wellspring Housing Stability Specialist for Friday of that week. But before she could meet with us, around 7:00 pm on Wednesday night, our Housing Stability Specialist 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 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.

When she received the text, our Housing Stability Specialist had already left work for the day and was at her night class. But she recognized the mother’s urgent need, so she contacted our Pierce County Program Manager to see if Wellspring could get the family off the street that night. Our Program Manager 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, the Housing Stability Specialist 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 our Housing Stability Specialist was able to confirm that Wellspring would help them, and that she was able to find a hotel near the location the van had broken down.

But after phoning the hotel to try to make arrangements for the family, the Housing Stability Specialist was informed that a Wellspring representative would need to go in person to sign for the payment at the hotel. So, our Program Manager agreed to drive from West Seattle to Tacoma to authorize payment arrangements.

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

Once the family was out of the storm, they were able to get some food at the hotel, while our Program Manager set them up for a week’s stay at the hotel to give Wellspring some 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,” our Program Manager expressed, “and that’s why we need to show up.”

This holiday season you can make a difference for families in crisis by supporting Wellspring’s mission. Give today!

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