A year later, the parking lot is still her home

SARATOGA COUNTY – At night, when the cold descends on the empty parking lot, Linda Longe wraps herself in her sleeping bag and does her best to sleep.

Linda’s broken-down SUV, cluttered with her belongings, is hardly comfortable, but it is her home. Remarkably, tragically, she has lived there for three years now, outside a closed big box store in Saratoga County.

“Everyone wants me to get out of this parking lot,” Linda told me. “But I always come back.”

I wrote about Linda about a year ago, describing how she got to the field after losing her mobile home in Stillwater. She never intended to stay, of course, but a temporary situation turned into something that looks more and more like a permanence. (For Linda’s safety, I’m vague on the exact location.)

During that harsh first winter, Linda would wake up during the night to turn on the vehicle and detonate the heat. She then had with her two parrots, Sunflower and Ladybug.

But the SUV eventually died, its tires went flat, so Linda gave her beloved birds and did her best to defend herself against the cold. She has no children and no family with whom she speaks on a regular basis. She is 64 years old and is living a life she never imagined was her own, a life many of us couldn’t imagine.

Last year after this column was published, I was able to connect Linda with social service agencies and nonprofits who said they could help. And they took Linda out of her SUV for a while, putting her up in hotels as they tried to find her a lasting home.

But in the end, nothing changed for Linda. There are several reasons for this.

The agencies wanted things that Linda wouldn’t take. They wanted her to immediately give up two storage units that she pays around $ 500 a month for. They wanted her to live in small spaces. They wanted her to give up her independence.

At least that’s how she described it, and for most of us the choice would be easy. Nothing better than living in an SUV? Wouldn’t a warm bed beat the frosty nights?

But Linda sees it differently. The stuff in those storage units is all she has. Possessions are his security and his memory.

And, she says, apartment living isn’t for her. She’s a country girl. She needs room to breathe, a place to plant flowers, a place where no one will complain about the noise of the parrots she hopes to keep one day.

“I don’t want to live next to someone else because I know it wouldn’t work,” Linda said. “I am my own person. I need room to move.”

Many years ago, Linda was in a car accident that she cannot remember, a collision that left her seriously injured in the brain. Her life was never the same afterwards, she said, and the accident was likely to be the root of some of her problems, including anxiety, depression and other health issues. Mental Health.

But even before the accident, Linda was certainly cantankerous. It’s a Capricorn, she noted with a shy smile.

“She’s stubborn,” said Patrick LaMarre. “She wants to do it her way, and that’s the only way.”

LaMarre is the manager of a dollar store near Linda’s truck. He got to know her years ago when she came to look for odd jobs, and every day when LaMarre comes to work he sees his truck sitting in the middle of the asphalt like a stranded ship.

Fearing that she would freeze to death, LaMarre tried to find Linda an apartment that she could accept and afford, and he tried to help her in other ways. In fact, LaMarre set up a GoFundMe page for Linda, in the hopes that he could raise enough to buy her a working car and, perhaps, a trailer in the country that she could call home.

To contribute to the GoFundMe page created for Linda Longe by Patrick LaMarre, visit www.gofundme.com/linda-longe.


“It would be the perfect thing,” Linda said, putting on that shy smile again.

For now, however, parking is his life and routine. Linda puts $ 10 of her monthly $ 870 disability checks towards a gym membership, so she can shower. She charges her phone at the cafe in a nearby Price Chopper. She goes to the laundromat, the post office box and its storage units.

It’s a life lived in the shadow of the wealth that surrounds it, families shopping and happily exiting dinner, and it’s dangerously precarious. What if Linda’s SUV was towed? What would she do then?

“Walk the streets, probably,” she said. “Sleep by the side of the road.”

When I met Linda one recent afternoon, she gave me five pages of reflections that she had written the day before in anticipation of my visit. They are titled “My Life or My Bad Luck List, I Guess”.

She wrote about her “not so good” childhood, her previous life in Stillwater, where she grew up, and the mechanical issues affecting her disabled SUV. She described how much it hurt when a stranger told her she had better die, and how painful at her age it is to walk as much as her.

But more than anything, she wrote about her hope for an easier life. After three years of living in a crowded SUV, after so many disappointments and frustrations, Linda still has hope.

“It would be really nice to have a place to live again,” she wrote. “I wish I could be out of this bad life situation before it’s too late.”

[email protected] ■ 518-454-5442 ■ @chris_churchill


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