Belinda Springer wants people to understand that you don’t have to be “mentally ill or poor or in some kind of trouble” to end up on the streets. That’s what she told audiences years ago in the Real Change Homeless Speakers Bureau. “I’m hoping that was the beginning for them making change.”
Belinda grew up in the Seattle area.
In the mid-1990s, Belinda herself was on the streets. Her passion was the Street Life Gallery, a workshop and display space for homeless artists. “Homeless artists and low-income people could create art and sell it. I worked up from being trained to becoming a donations coordinator and then president.”
“The gallery’s been closed for a long time. I’d like to see another one open.” She was also part of StreetWrites, a group for homeless poets and writers. “We did a lot of speaking and public engagement.”
Belinda’s been an artist since her childhood, “since I was old enough to paint my mashed potatoes. It’s a lifelong learning process. You take what you learn and you build on that. You fall away from it, you get rusty.”
But between paying her utilities and the unsubsidized part of her rent, “I’ve lost my focus, my inspirations. I’m just trying to get out of this pit of poverty. It’s a pit of grasping at straws, but I’m still grasping.”
So her art takes second place. “Art doesn’t really pay the bills.” She sells the jewelry she makes when she can. “I also am interested in photography, but I can’t afford a digital camera.”
Once she gets some needed surgery, her real focus is figuring how to get back into school. “I would like to finish my bachelor’s, something with an emphasis in human services, maybe business or leadership.”
Belinda has been selling Real Change “since a little after it opened.” Although she’s housed now — “a shelter plus care voucher program” — she doesn’t have other regular income. She sells papers by the Bartell’s near King Street Station. It’s close to the office, so she doesn’t run out of electricity for her wheelchair. “There’s a bathroom across the street. And if I run out of my inhaler, I can have Bartell’s call my doctor. Too many people blowing their cigarette smoke in my face.”
Belinda joins housing alliance actions and is involved with the Real Change editorial committee. Selling the paper helps with more than just money, too. “I’m starting to build a decent clientele. I’ve had people try to help me get back into school. My heart reaches out to each and every one. Thank you because you helped me get back into the swing of things instead of giving up.”
Wait, there's more. Check out the full January 10th issue.