A real-life perspective from the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space, Linda’s story

When Linda sits down to talk, it’s like sitting across from an old friend. She smiles, and says she’s doing ok, overall. She admits she’s trying not to give up on finding housing, but that smile doesn’t make it all the way to her bright eyes.  In the month she’s been staying in one of the tents at the Temporary Outdoor Space (TSOS), she’s learned how to use the propane buddy heater to stay warm at night—now that the nights are still chilly but not frigid, it’s a continuous challenge to regulate the temperature, requiring constant adjustment of the “all on” or “all off” heater. 

After raising her daughter here, Linda is a part of Missoula, and loves volunteering to help others. The  year-and-a-half journey that brought her to the TSOS has made her wary of finding housing, though she’s trying to stay positive. She describes her situation as the result of not one big thing, but several challenges that all happened at the same time. She was working, but someone rammed into her car while it was parked, making it no longer drivable. The driver who hit her didn’t leave a note, and was never found. She lost her job as a cosmetologist when the salon closed, and she had to buy another car. Then she got behind on her rent, which means she now has another negative mark on her rental history, in addition to a past issue from more than eight years ago that still shows up on her rental applications. A trained cosmetologist, Linda is still looking for work, and excited to get back to doing hair, but that industry has struggled during the pandemic.

After she was unable to stay at her last rental (couldn’t work, or pay rent and back rent), she moved into her car for several months—spending nights at rest areas, where she had access to a bathroom. When the winter got really cold the rest-area pluming froze, and things were still closed due to the pandemic (no lobbies or coffee shops open to sit in and have a hot cup of tea, or use the restroom), she spent a few nights at the Johnson Street Winter Shelter. When she heard about the TSOS opening, she thought it might be a better fit for her. 

And it has been. She’s safe there (and can leave her belongings in her tent each day), and her confidence is slightly renewed. She’s continuing to look for work—it’s tricky because she really wants stable, long-term work and the salon industry is taking a while to come back to where it was before the pandemic. About looking for housing, Linda says “It’s a challenge in the best of times. In these times, it’s impossible.” She drives down the road a bit to access the internet, looking for jobs, and keeping up with connections on social media. 

Her daughter helps out as she can—Linda appreciates the help, and hates needing it—and Linda helps by doing their family’s hair. Right now she’s focused on work, since finding housing feels impossible most days. She’s working on staying positive and keeping going. The TSOS is helping.

Story update:  Linda secured a full-time job—congratulations! A few months later, she moved into her own one-bedroom apartment! She continues to rebuild her life and make improvements!

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