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Homeless 600 nights, woman now has a place to call her own

The story of two families and their seasons of hope

Published: Sunday, Dec. 23 2012 11:30 a.m. MST

Theresa Williams grabs food for her family after a donation was dropped off at The Road Home's Midvale shelter on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. The Williams family has been homeless for more than a year.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — There are large, furry slippers on Linda Bonds' feet and a lanyard clipped to a host of keys around her neck.

The keys jingle and shake with Bonds as she walks through her home, speaking with spirit and animation. Their weight rests against her torso as she stirs the homemade split pea soup on her stove.

"I'm inside," she said. "I'm in. I'm in."

Not more than two weeks after Bonds stood outside the homeless shelter at 210 Rio Grande and asked for a second chance, she got one.

It took her age, 57; her income, a Social Security disability check; and the number of nights she's spent homeless, more than 600, to qualify for it. It came in the form of a one-bedroom apartment and a voucher for $365 to Deseret Industries that bought couches, a kitchen table, chairs, and a bed. For the first time in years she is home for the holidays.

Darren and Theresa Williams, the parents of two boys, ages 11 and 15, have been homeless for more than a year. They are marking this season of hope back at The Road Home shelter in Midvale. They thought they may have a line on a home more than a month ago, but it didn't come through. But they said they haven't lost hope since first sharing their story with Deseret News readers in October.

The holiday season means different things to different people. But for Linda Bonds and the Williams family, faith, family and hope are again at the center of their Christmas season.

A new home

Linda Bonds had not had a home for six years. And when she was asked what she loves the most about her new place she responded with one word: "Everything."

"I wanted a second chance, and I got that. Thank you, Jesus! I thank him every day. I do. I'm blessed — truly."

Bonds said it was about a week and a half after an October Deseret News article on the city's homeless that she was told that she qualified for a new program and that she would be getting placed in an apartment.

"No! Are you for real? Really, really?" she demanded of her caseworker. "He said, 'Yeah. Really, really.'"

She moved in Nov. 6, along with eight others who had been living on the street. She likes having keys and the ability to lock her door. She likes that there are security cameras at the building. When she found a man asleep in the hallway of her building, she asked for better lighting.

Now, she feels "peace and serenity."

"I can go out in the street to do what I got to do knowing I can come home and close the world out if I choose," she said. "I can run buck naked through my house if I want to, leaving footprints everywhere I go, because I have a mop."

She keeps the place spotless. She said it's a contrast to conditions living among others and sharing space in shelters. She especially loves cooking. Thanksgiving Day, she had friends over for a home-cooked meal.

"I put a little spread on. It was all good," she said. "I was able to feed them. Everyone had a good meal. It was just lovely."

Bonds has been in and out of homeless shelters since 2006. Sometimes she would stay with family or friends. Other times she would take her checks and use them to pay for motels. She panhandled.

But after five years on the streets, she wondered how she could handle another five. This became part of her prayers.

"Whatever you have in your will for me, I will do it, but please hurry up," she recounted.

Bonds said she made a commitment to God to do right and said she avoided drinking and offers to work in prostitution or sell drugs.

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