SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) –Ruth Soto’s smile is infectious. You would never know that the young Springfield woman who is so optimistic has had incredible obstacles to overcome. Ones that forced her into homelessness. “I was born in Puerto Rico, and my mom is only 13 years older than me. I was a product of, a, rape, and after a few years of us not getting along, I just decided at the time that the shelter, it sounds crazy! But it was more stable,” she shared.
Even though Soto only stayed for a week, one of those shelters happened to be a hotel. Transportation and preparing healthy meals became an issue. “It was very difficult. You have to deal with whatever you have. You have to do what you have to survive,” Soto stated.
Soto would leave the hotel. While transitioning to her own apartment, she’d end up at Friends of the Homeless for 3 years.
While both programs are funded by the state, Friends of the Homeless focuses more on individuals who are not guaranteed that housing. Yet, it’s still not a long term solution. “Nobody thinks that the motels are a good answer, by the way. Not the people who run the motels, not the state. That really finding a reasonable way to earn a living is the answer, and jobs, jobs, jobs,” said FoH Executive Director Bill Miller.
That’s actually why Soto is back here today. Now a nursing student at Springfield Technical Community College with her own apartment, she’s come to volunteer, and spread hope. “Maybe one door closes, but trust and believe, a couple more are open. If you try hard enough, you will succeed,” Soto smiled.
According to the state’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, in the past 5 years alone, spending on hotels has ballooned from $1 million, to more than $46 million dollars.