Linda Survives Strange Return to Florida
Linda was minding her business at her home in St. Louis in November 2008 when there was a knock at her door. An officer was holding a souvenir from her days living in Florida more than a decade earlier.
“It was a warrant for my arrest,” Linda said. “I wrote a check in the 1990s for $74.13 that had bounced. I never even knew about it, but Florida never forgot. There’s no statute of limitations on bounced checks in Florida; they’ll come and get you.”
Linda was jailed in St. Louis and eventually extradited back here to the Sunshine State, where she served 137 days.
“Oh, that was by far my lowest point. Nobody wants to be in jail,” she said. “But you know, when I walked in that door, God grabbed me by the collar and told me, ‘You’ll be OK.’ I did a lot of praying and He took me on this walk. It wasn’t easy but He got me through it.”
While in jail, Linda was a “trustee,” which gave her a few privileges and kept her away from the harder criminals. It also introduced her to the woman who managed the trustees and also knew of a place where Linda could go when she was released.
“It was a place for women with addictions. I stayed there for about five months,” she said. “I never really fit in there. My father was the song leader in church for 42 years and I had never even had a drink. But it was a place for me to stay and I was grateful for it.”
Early in her time there, Linda began looking for a job. That’s no easy task for a 55-year-old woman recently released from jail.
“I had three pages of phone numbers for resources for the homeless, so I am on the telephone calling everybody,” she said. “I don’t even know who I was talking to but they told me about this program called Experience Works, which helps people my age find work. You get 20 hours a week at minimum wage. It’s not a lot but at least you’re working.”
Linda started working part-time for the state in the Division of Blind Services. By that time she also decided it was time to find another place to live so, in September 2009, Linda moved to O.U.R. Mission Home. She immediately knew she was in a special place.
“When you come into this — if you come into it the right way — you’ve got a full support network,” Linda said. “For me, homelessness wasn’t going to be a lifetime condition. I had goals and the Mission helped me achieve them. It was a very positive place.”
While she was living at the Mission, Linda got a call from the head of Experience Works, who wanted to place her with the City of Orlando. Today she’s working full-time as the telephone operator at City Hall.
Shortly after starting work for the city, Linda moved from the Mission into a downtown high-rise downtown, just three blocks from her work.
“Because I am a veteran, the VA assisted me in getting my apartment,” she said. “My rent is based on what I am making. I’m able to walk to work. I’m in a pretty good situation.”
Linda’s experience with homelessness and time at the Mission have given her a perspective that she shares with others who find themselves in similar situations.
“I’m near the Amway Center and I walk through areas where there are a lot of homeless people. If they stop me and need help, I tell them where they can go,” she said. “And with my job, you have no idea how many times I give the Mission’s phone number to people who are looking for help. I really believe if you are a single woman and come here for the right reasons and do what you are supposed to do, when you leave you will have a job and your own place, you’ll pay your rent and everything will be fine.”
Linda says while the experience was difficult at the time, she’s happy with how things turned out.
“Some of the happiest times of my life were when I lived in Florida the first time, so I am glad to be back,” she said. “Plus, I proved I could stand on my own two feet. But would I want to go through this all again? No.”
Staying at O.U.R. Mission Home, Linda got the help she needed to get back on her feet. Hers is just one of thousands of lives transformed here over the last 65 years. Your gift of $26.82 provides a day of life-changing care for a homeless man, woman or child in Central Florida.