Homeless No More

 

Written by Amy Dee Stephens in the November 2018 Issue

Homeless No More

Homeless No More

Linda Short never expected to become homeless. She’d been raised in a stable, middle-class family environment--but a series of events changed her situation, and she found herself penniless and desperate for a bunk bed at the City Rescue Mission. 

In many ways, Linda defied the “homeless” stereotype because she never drank, did drugs, stole or panhandled. Instead, she followed the mission’s rules, showered, and got a job.  It took many years to turn things around, but now, she has a place to live, a supervisor position, and the pride that comes from overcoming a hopeless situation. Here’s her story in her own words:

“I married a much older man who ignored his health and became a physical wreck. The worse he felt, the worse he treated me, until I couldn’t take it anymore,” Linda said. “I moved out, going from couch to couch. In 2005, I was working at a fast-food restaurant, but the manager was supporting his meth habit by stealing money from my cash drawer. I couldn’t afford to lose the job, so I paid it back every time. I made the ultimate dumb decision to use my car insurance money to cover it—until that ran out. It was the manager’s word against mine, so for the first-and-only time, I no-showed for work and never returned.

I had no money, and right after that, the couple I was staying with split up. That’s when I found myself homeless. Having nowhere else to go, I went straight to the mission. I did have a car, which meant I was better off than 99% of the homeless people. I made money by driving homeless people around, especially at the beginning of the month when they had government money. They’d pay me $5 or $10 for a ride, which was cheaper than a cab. 

When my car broke down, I had no income again. Because I kept clean and didn’t use drugs, I was able to get work through a temp agency. One of those jobs was custodial work at the Oklahoma City Zoo. In 2006, I was hired on as a part-timer. At that point, I was still making $6 an hour, so I continued to live at the mission for another year. I either rode the bus or walked four miles to work. I eventually got a bike, and even if there was ice on the ground, I made it to work. As long as I made it back to the mission by 7:00pm lock-down, I had a bed. I wasn’t late a single time. 

I never dreamed I could afford my own apartment, one that wasn’t in a rough neighborhood filled with drug dealers, but I found a small one in a historic district that was under $350 a month. I’ve lived there 10 years now. I’ve never missed my rent payment, and I’m not on Section 8. In 2014, I was hired full-time at the zoo, and now I supervise some employees. That’s a big deal, because I’ve always had terrible social anxiety, which this job is helping me overcome. 

My mom was a marine. She taught me to deal with hardship and not depend on others to fix your problems—so I’m proud that I got myself out of my situation. I got a job and kept it. Being homeless was a journey, and I’m actually grateful for what I’ve been through.

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