Hope Dwells Here

Hear a story from one of our treasured mothers that we have had the privilege of getting to know at The Well:

My name is Maria, and I am a longtime resident of the Tenderloin, a mother, and a member of several community-based organizations, including Because Justice Matters. I was born in Yucatán, Mexico, and I lived in Cancún with my mother as a child. Meanwhile, my father and brother moved to San Francisco. When I was 15, my mother received a call from my father, in which he told her that my brother had fallen ill. We traveled to San Francisco to live with them in a very small apartment. Only my father was working when we arrived, and it took us some time to learn how to navigate the resources available to us.

I have lived here for ten years now, and I have more confidence, despite the ugliness of the street. When my daughter and I walk together through the city, we see the differences in the neighborhoods—when we leave the Tenderloin, we can immediately breathe easier because the air is cleaner. This saddens me because the Tenderloin is an area with many kids. The children see all that surrounds them, and they ask questions about why people are sitting in the streets, sick and on drugs. I explain that people from prisons and hospitals are often released here, and there is not always adequate help for all of them.

Now that I work with an advocacy group in the Tenderloin, I am realizing that people shut themselves up in their homes as a way of coping with the chaos and fear. I was afraid too, but I have learned over time that it is better to come together and organize. United, we can ask for the things that we would like to see in the neighborhood. The families who have children to care for can align themselves with the police to ensure that the area becomes safer through the effort and dedication of many.

People talk about the Tenderloin as having the worst reputation in the city, but this is my neighborhood and I will defend it because I have found a valuable community here. BJM, La Voz Latina, and different community meetings provide ways for people to overcome not only individual isolation but the larger problems that affect the entire population either directly or indirectly. There is a hope that things will get better as long as families, who have a motivation to create a different landscape, continue seeking to bring these dreams into reality.

Ultimately, there is a better life with God, regardless of circumstances or surroundings. I remember one day several children came to my door and asked if I would like to go to church, and I agreed. There, I truly encountered God and I now have the desire for my own daughters to know Him even in their youth. At Mother’s Brunch, a space is provided for the mothers of the Tenderloin to sit with one another and grow in their faith individually and corporately. We relax, the staff provide devotionals and read from the Bible, and we learn how to pray and cultivate a personal relationship with God.

I know that I am loved by God, as are my children, as are the people on the street. This neighborhood is beloved by God. At church, they tell us that He is looking for people who are not perfect—he wants to change us, to form us through his love. The enemy wants to weaken our bond with the Lord and there are many trials throughout life both large and small, yet we must rely on God for guidance and strength in the midst. I have confidence that He never leaves us, and His love can sustain us through it all.

Tate Callejas