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Linda Clark awakens these days in a Muscatine apartment of her own.

“This is … a new experience for me,” said Clark, 54, who hadn’t lived on her own in many years. “But it’s a good experience. It makes me feel like I’m somebody … a real human being.”

That wasn’t always the case for Clark, who moved into her apartment on June 1 after spending two months in the MCSA Family and Transitional Housing program. Her furnished apartment is at Gateway House, where MCSA collects rent for Zion Lutheran Church, the property’s owner, from the tenants of five apartments in the house. MCSA also provides case-management services for residents at Gateway House.

By the time an apartment became available, Clark had earned her way into Gateway House because of the way she worked with her MCSA caseworker. She never missed their weekly meetings and met all of her goals, which included paying off overdue utility bills.

“When I first got here, I felt like I was nobody,” she said.

She had been back in Muscatine — the place where she was born and raised — for about a year, after living in Mount Morris, New York, a town of about 4,500 people that is about an hour east of Buffalo. She came back to Muscatine to help care for her father, who died in February. His death left her looking for a place to stay, which is how she arrived at MCSA.

“I came here. They were very helpful,” she said of the staff at MCSA. “It was a struggle in the beginning.”

Clark, who lives on the disability payments she receives each month, would go out every day looking for a place of her own in which to live.

“It was surprising what places do help,” she said of the assistance she has received in Muscatine. “One thing is for sure, you could never go without a meal. There is always a place to eat. There are free stores that will help you.”

She credited MCSA staff for helping her find the furnished apartment.

“It was just amazing. It was miracle after miracle,” she said.

Additionally, MCSA provided a place for Clark to talk about — and plan for — her future, especially in “Personal Expressions,” a therapeutic writing class taught at MCSA by staff member Cheryl Estabrook.

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“Cheryl Estabrook is just wonderful. She is awesome. She has been there,” Clark said. “She’ll sit down and go through different areas … where you are in your life, what you’re feeling, what your roadblocks are. She helps you to recognize what you do, or what you don’t, have in your life.”

And from those lessons, Clark regained hope.

“There is always hope for the homeless,” she said. “All you have to do is make an effort and you will get all kinds of help.”

Because it has given her so much, Clark said she has been thinking of ways she can help others by giving back to MCSA.

“I can’t give money, but I figure I can do simple things like making some cookies, bringing them over, letting them know that I appreciate what they have done for me,” she said.

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