Posted on March 23, 2010
The sun shines down in rays through the blinds on her living room window as Linda Billings*,58, sits on her couch, hands clasped and resting in her lap.
With wide eyes, she begins to talk about how she experienced homelessness for the first time in her life in the fall of 2009.
“If you would have asked me 30 years ago I would have told you, ‘Nah, no way, not me,’” Billings says about whether or not she thought she‘d ever experience homelessness.
The oldest of her siblings, Billings has always been independent and a hard worker. At the age of 12, she began working at a diner where her mother was employed and says she has been “hooked” on making money ever since.
Billings married when she was 19 years old.
“My ex-husband was what they (some people) call an overnight drunk,” Billings says , “I worked 2 or 3 jobs at a time to support our family.”
Despite his alcoholism and eventual physical and emotional abuse, Billings remained married to her first husband for 12 years. She finally was able to break away from her tumultuous relationship and buy her own house.
“I’d have probably given up … I don’t know where I would have ended up if it hadn’t been for my children,” a misty-eyed Billings says, “They helped me.”
It wasn’t long before another man battling addiction would cause turmoil in her life; this time it was her own son.
Billings’ son would come to her every time he needed money. He would claim that if he did not pay, drug dealers would come after him and then his family, including Billings herself.
“In the beginning, sometimes I’d believe those stories,” Billings says, “Drug dealers will come after you.”
After losing vehicles and her second home because of her son’s addiction, Billings was told by doctors that she could no longer work because of health complications caused by varicose veins.
Unable to work, Billings was left with no place of her own to call home.
Her independent ways are what Billings says allowed her to never give up. Through the local shelters, she heard about Virginia Supportive Housing and contacted them immediately.
Billings had her eye set on a certain apartment building where she wanted to live. In just a couple of weeks, through the HPRP program at VSH, she was able to obtain her own apartment in that very building.
As Billings sits in her freshly vacuumed, candle-scented apartment, she explains how she is working on getting her GED.
“Virginia Supportive Housing has helped in so many ways. For one thing, knowing that they were there and willing to support me and help me get to where I am,” Billings says, “ I am so blessed and thankful to have them (VSH) in my life.”
*Name was changed to protect program participant’s privacy.