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Linda O. - A Meaningful Story

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

Linda O. is a 63-year-old woman currently experiencing homelessness. She was born in Wisconsin & grew up in an all-white community. She shared that she & her family were "poor people in a rich town." Linda grew up in a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house with her parents & her 7 siblings. She shared that her parents had 8th-grade educations, but that they "did their best to give us all the stuff they didn't have." Her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia when Linda was 3, so her mom spent most of Linda's childhood in mental institutions. Linda shared that since, at the time, there was not a lot of knowledge available regarding schizophrenia, the doctors "fried [her mom's] brain with a lot of ECT" all the way to her death 2 years ago. In addition to her mother not being very present in Linda's childhood, one of her sisters died, which caused her father to become a "rageaholic." She shared that he gave her and her siblings away to cousins a lot of the time so that he could work. She also shared that she & her sister were sexually assaulted by her brother-in-law, who is still married to her older sister today.


Linda was not very interested in school from a young age & described herself as a "class clown" & a "juvenile delinquent." She shared: "in 5th grade, my English teacher said, Linda, some people in school are just not made for it, and that's you." She shared that she always felt pretty left out as a child & not treated very well in school, which is apparent in the previous quote. This caused Linda to become depressed & by 14, she began drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. She shared that she "had a few blackouts" & got pregnant at one point, but ended up having an abortion.


Linda graduated high school & at 19, she and her friend hitchhiked to San Francisco from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She started dating a man in SF when she was 19, whom she said was apparently schizophrenic. They dated for a few months, & since he was sober, she stopped doing drugs during that time as well. Linda ended up leaving him for another man, whom she also described as so schizophrenic that he was "dangerous." They only dated for a month, however, during that time she got pregnant with her firstborn & had him at 21. Linda now has 3 children, & she shared that one of her sons was "stolen off of [her] breast to the Middle East by his father when he was a year old." She & her boyfriend also ended up moving out to Orange County, where she got her RN from the nursing program at Santa Ana College.


When Linda was 40, her son was 17 & he got shot in a gang fight. She began heavily drinking & she was given antidepressants. This caused her to go "crazy" & to lose her job at the UCI burn victim sector due to not being able to appropriately work with other people. She & her son moved back to Wisconsin for a while & she lost all of her properties, causing her to become homeless. She moved back to Orange County & rented a room with her daughter for quite some time, although she was becoming more & more depressed. During this time, she attempted suicide on her own psych meds after wanting to "kill [herself] for 30 years."


When Linda was 55, she started dating her 3rd & last boyfriend. They moved out to Mexico, where she lived for 5 years. She shared that they were both drinking heavily & that he tried to kill her twice. Linda also said that she "almost died of MRSA" while she was there, & that since this was during the pandemic, no hospitals wanted to see her, causing her to self-medicate. She overdosed, which "blew a big hole in [her] knee & on the bottom of [her] foot."


Fortunately, Linda safely moved back to Orange County two years ago & has been living at one of Grandma's House of Hope's locations for almost a year. When she returned from Mexico, she found an amazing therapist, who recommended her to the staff at GHOH. Linda says that she is now "excited about life" & that she "finally [has] hope for a nice future." She enjoys singing & says that she has always been "all about music, art, & animals." Linda shared that she is looking forward to getting a job in parking recreation soon so that she can work with kids. She also said that she wants to go back to school to become an animal massage therapist. She wants you all to know that "acceptance is the answer to all problems. You can't change people or situations."


Let's also give a huge congrats to Linda for being 4 months sober from psych medications & 2 weeks sober from alcohol!!


Thank you so much for allowing the world to hear your inspiring story, Linda!


If you would like to learn more about Grandma's House of Hope, click here.


Donate to Project WHY today so that we can continue to interview these amazing people! Project WHY is a 501(c)(3) non-profit public benefit corporation registered with the State of California & the United States government. 100% of your tax-deductible donation goes to supporting individuals experiencing homelessness! :)


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7 Comments


Another reminder for me of the hurdles that some people have to overcome so early on their lives. So glad Linda found Grandma’s House of Hope. I hope she can fulfill her dream of working with kids and making a positive difference in other people’s lives. How great would that be?

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Guest
Aug 20, 2022

This is a great example of not knowing someone’s story when you meet them - whether that is on the street, in the neighborhood, at work, or even at the grocery store. We are so quick to judge in the moment without understanding the person. Thanks for sharing her powerful story.

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azapp25
azapp25
Aug 16, 2022

It is easier (which is not to say, 'easy') to transcend race, gender, language, culture & country, than the downward spiral of mental illness/ abuse that starts in an innocent child's HOME, which is most definitely a "situation" she can't change. The echoes & ramifications of those childhood storms (can't help but to) reverberate throughout that person's life & (unless pro-actively Stopped) spill over into future generations. It takes Tremendous Courage to STAY CLEAN --- even for a Night and a Day -- after weathering such storms! More Power to You, Linda!

THANK YOU Grandma's House of Hope for providing shelter from the storm, and to Project WHY for making such tragic stories not just KNOWN --- but FELT. Respect.

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Ed Zappia
Ed Zappia
Aug 16, 2022

That is an incredible story of life-long tragedy, survival, and hope. It is amazing work Arielle.

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Guest
Aug 15, 2022

Impactful story!! shows there’s always more to the story than we see

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