Linda Morgan moved to Bellingham in 1975 to study Sociology and Criminology at Western. After graduating she worked as a counselor at a work-release center, helping young people rehabilitate to society. But only a couple of years into her career the program was defunded. “They made it coed,” she said, “and got rid of the female counselors. I got an opportunity to work for the city and I went for it. I like the outdoors; I’m a hard worker.”
Linda stayed with the city for 28 years. She enjoyed the work, but it took a toll on her body. She suffered a great deal of nerve damage on her arms and legs, has undergone knee surgery, and will need a hip replacement soon.
In 2001, she decided to move to Ontario with her then partner, but her disability left her unable to find a job, and the lack of independence put her in a difficult situation, “I didn’t have good luck there because it was kind of an abusive thing. So I ended up being in shelters, and living in my van with my dog. So it wasn’t all that healthy of a time there. I learned a lot. Met a lot of nice people. But there were also some bad experiences.”
Those experiences brought her back home, “I love Bellingham. I basically grew up here. I just wanted to come back. I had friends, I had support people here.”
According to a Whatcom County Association of Realtors report, the year Linda left Bellingham, the median price for a home in Whatcom County was $150,000. That number doubled by the time Linda came back, and hovers around $450,000 today.
When so many can’t afford to buy a home, it disturbs the entire housing continuum, driving up the price of market rentals, and completely overwhelming subsidized and transitional housing, as well as senior living facilities.
Linda was shocked to find how the city had changed. She had expected to be able to reestablish herself here, and that she’d be able to afford a duplex or a modular home. For a time, she was able to live in subsidized housing, but, “Every month they would raise the rent, like $50, $100. I was struggling big time there. They would have water leaks, and they wouldn’t fix it. There was dampness in there and you could smell the mildew.” Eventually the apartment complex where she lived decided to completely remodel, and gave her an ultimatum: she could either move to a more expensive unit, or move out.
“I never thought that at my age I’d be at a spot where I wasn’t going to be able to have a place to live. That was frustrating because of my background and my history of work.
I was very very lucky I had a good friend that let me rent a room from her. Otherwise I’d be in the streets.” Not only has Linda’s friend, Kathy, provided a place for her to live, she helped Linda complete her sweat equity hours at the Habitat Store. “She is a life saver.” Linda said, “She has really helped me. She bailed me out. If it wasn’t for her I would’ve been homeless for sure.”
These days Linda stays active in her church, and works as a volunteer caregiver. She also takes a senior dancing class, “Which is really fun. Everybody thinks a bunch of seniors can’t dance, but we have fun. It keeps me getting a little bit of exercise and helps my balance.”
She also spends time each week working on her future home at the Telegraph Townhome site, with our volunteers, some of which will be her neighbors soon. “Everybody has their own journey and we’re kind of in the same boat in a sense. So, I think it’s gonna be a nice little community.”
Linda’s own journey taught her that you never know where life is going to lead you, and she thinks it is important that everyone understands. “I went to school. I had good training with the city. I had a lot of good skills. You don’t ever think it’s going to happen to you–that all of a sudden…you’re in this part of your life where you don’t have enough to live. I never thought I’d be in this position. I’m very lucky now that I’ll be able to have a home.”
The need for safe, affordable housing is more important than ever. We here at Habitat have seen firsthand how improved living conditions lead to the improved health of our Partner Homebuyers. Any donation, big or small, will help us keep building here in Whatcom County. If you are able, please consider pledging $5 per month.