By Grace Lemon —
“If you put good in, good is going to come back to you.”
On July 27th, two of WIND’s volunteers sat down for a phone interview with 72-year-old Linda G. We spoke to her about her experience with the criminal justice system and the support systems that have helped her stay out of prison after she had been in and out for about 35 years.
Linda was a resident of Grace House, a transition home in Chicago, three times before she decided to make a permanent change. When she was released from prison for the last time, she went straight to Grace House and was determined to stay. Linda says that her greatest struggle previously was that she lacked discipline and did what she wanted to do when she wanted to do it, rather than doing what she was supposed to do. When she left Grace House, she says, she had learned how to live life “on the world’s terms.”
Linda describes Grace House as a “toolbox for life” and a blessed place where you are able to turn your life around. When she arrived at Grace House, she didn’t trust her own thought processes and decision-making, so she began to run everything by a counselor. This support taught her new patterns of thinking, and she was able to form the habit of always telling the truth. The best service offered to her at Grace House was the support of the volunteers who were working on their master’s degrees, which inspired her to go to school for social work and addiction studies. Since her time as a resident of Grace House ended in 2007, she has worked at a healthcare clinic, Lincoln Park Community Shelter, and back at Grace House.
Despite Linda’s saying that she retired in March 2019, she hasn’t been able to keep herself away from the work she has done to give back to her community. She continues to work part-time at Grace House as a housing coordinator, and works the overnight shifts when there are no caseworkers in the building. For this reason, Linda always tries to engage with the residents, share her story, and let them know that they too can succeed.