Wellspring House Gives Homeless Hope

hartman, house
hartman, house

It could be a museum, or at least a bed and breakfast. The Wellspring House in Gloucester, Mass., is 350 years old — and beautifully restored, CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports in this week's Assignment America.

"The floorboards are original, the fireplace is original, the central beams are original," says Nancy Schwoyer. "In some ways it is a bed and breakfast, isn't it? It's just that it's a bed and breakfast for homeless families."

Schwoyer runs Wellspring — easily America's nicest homeless shelter. Families who stay there are considered guests. They eat the same food at the same time and table as the staff. And they can stay as long as they need to.

Schwoyer says she does it "because it's the human thing to do."

So how does she get people to leave? Not a problem. "Oh, as beautiful as this is, it's not their own home," she says.

Wellspring started in 1981 when Schwoyer and a group of friends from church decided to buy a house, live in it together and share it with homeless families. "And support them in whatever they needed to get on their feet," Schwoyer adds.

Since then, through donations and grants, Wellspring has expanded its building and its scope. It now offers everything from classes on finding jobs to the clothes for landing them.

Perhaps because Wellspring is so comprehensive, its success rate is phenomenal: 80 percent of people who come to the homeless shelter are never homeless again.

"When the squeal goes through this house and word comes up to my office, as it has many times, 'I got my housing,' there's just nothing like it," Schwoyer says. "Nothing, nothing, nothing like it."

Jane Mwongelli and her daughter Meggie are the latest celebrants. Mwongelli fled an abusive husband with basically nothing. Now she's a first-time homeowner, studying to be a nurse.

"I am going to make it," Jane says.