Wellspring story: songbird’s safe haven

CoreyCheryl is Wellspring’s songbird. When she isn’t singing at the Oak Park center for women and children, she sings gospel at Harmony Church.

“Gospel music is my life,” Cheryl says. “Gospel music is a joy. It’s a nutrient, a necessity like minerals and vitamins because it helps you to keep going like the Energizer Bunny. You’ve got your vitamin As, your vitamin Bs, your Ds, Fs and your sharps so gospel music is like a good meal.”

Often sporting elaborate hats with gold lame or green hair caps beneath them, Cheryl dresses in layers.

cheryl wellFor the past 10 years, she has been homeless. One day, she arrived at Wellspring with her blouse tied around her head and observed, “Anytime a woman starts making a hat out of a blouse, you know it’s time to get housing.”

Her knees ache – crunching and creaking as she gets up and sits down. Soon, she says, they will need fluid drained.

Cheryl has lived on the streets of San Francisco and Sacramento. The streets in San Francisco are rougher, she says.

“I was so sleepy one night, I got ready to sit down on some steps – didn’t even sit down, I started, I attempted to and I got a ticket,” she says.

The ticket was for $450.

“Homelessness is terrible. I wish that everyone could experience being homeless at least one time in their life so that they could see what it is like. If they could experience it one time, then maybe they would reach out to help somebody.”

 What is it like to be homeless as a woman?

“It’s scary. That’s what it is like. It is very challenging because you’ve got people out there who sometimes think that you are out there prostituting. They think that they can just pick you up during the daytime or night.”

 How do you protect yourself?

“My self-defense is God. Most of the time, I have an Our Daily Bread book of prayers and I tell them, ‘This is all I have.’” Even though sometimes they refuse it, I say, ‘Do you want to come and hear me sing?’ And they say, ‘Where do you sing at?’ I tell them, ‘I sing at this church on Second Avenue, it’s called Harmony.’ They say, ‘I don’t go to church.’ And I say, ‘Well maybe one of these days you will be out on the road passing by and you might hear me sing.’”

Recently, four men harassed Cheryl one night.

One man approached her in Oak Park and asked for sex. She walked away and told him she was going to meet a friend. She walked down Broadway, heading towards the Convention Center and clinging to the safety of the bus route in the dark of the night.

The man followed her, but finally got tired and left. When Cheryl arrived at the Convention Center, another man tried to steal her coat. A police officer came to her aid.

Cheryl walked by the Old Spaghetti Factory en route to Sutter General Hospital to catch the bus back to 34th Street. Here, two more men approached her.

A bus driver gave assistance. He took her to 34th and Broadway. Cheryl says, “I got off and went to a church and sat on the steps till daylight.

“My knees told the story the next day because they were swollen up big and I could hardly lift them, but maybe that was because I was so cold” she said. “If I had better clothing maybe I could have stayed warmer.”

Cheryl has been coming to Wellspring since it opened.

“Wellspring is sort of like fresh water on a hot, thirsty day,” she says. “If there wasn’t a Wellspring sometimes I don’t know where I would grab a meal. Wellspring is just a joyful place. It is a safe haven. I look forward to coming here in the morning, not just for the food, but also to see the faces of the children.”

Adapted from “Tales from the Heart of Wellspring.”  https://wellspringwomenscenter.wordpress.com


  1. Burt Clemons says

    Very insightful, I followed her journey as she escaped her dangers. It was though I was walking right there with her. Good story telling.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *