Minneapolis. Just south of downtown. The Powderhorn Park community is a vibrant place, lying east of I-35W. Home to the Minneapolis Institute of Art museum, the Hennepin History Museum and a host of Latin eateries serving food potent enough to curl a grown man’s toenails.
You’ll also notice all the George Floyd pictures in the area. The Floyd portraits are painted on vertical surfaces, mounted on walls, hanging everywhere. That’s because George Floyd Square is located just down the road.
“Powderhorn has a homelessness problem,” says one local resident. “It’s a real issue in Minneapolis.”
Which is an understatement. Recently, one of the many homeless encampments in Powderhorn Park was recently shut down because it was home to some 300 tents. And that’s just one camp. There are more. In fact, there are nearly 20 homeless shelters within a five mile radius.
Which leads us to Miss Linda.
Seventy-year-old Miss Linda Taylor has been living in this area and volunteering with homeless shelters for upwards of 19 years. People know her as “The Soup Lady,” from her years spent sweating in the trenches called soup kitchens.
She is every little old woman you’ve met. She lives in a little two-story bungalow with a modest garden out back. She’s the kind of woman who names her houseplants and sings classic rock as she waters.
She has raised five kids. A passel of grandkids. And now she is helping raise a flock of great-grandkids.
Miss Linda wears a perpetual smile, and within her smile lines you can tell what kind of life she has lived. A life of service.
So you can imagine what a cruel blow it was when The Soup Lady got news that she was about to be evicted. The news came with no forewarning, no apologies, just a notice informing her that her fundaments were about to be tossed onto the cold Minnesota asphalt.
So she went to the neighbors for help. The local reaction surprised her.
“I just talked to one person,” said Miss Linda, “and that one person said, ‘There’s no way, Miss Linda, that you are gonna move.’”
Things snowballed after the neighbors got wind of things. And by “snowballed,” I of course mean that the neighbors completely freaked out. And by “freaked,” I mean that her Powderhorn Park constituents were infuriated. Outraged. Incensed. Exasperated. Ticked. Hacked off. Miffed. Fill in the verb.
“Miss Linda has been an institution in this neighborhood,” said her neighbor, Andrew Fahlstrom. “She knows everyone, she is the friendliest person in a five-block radius, and everyone knows who she is, so I really couldn’t let it happen.”
“She’s such a good person,” said another neighbor. “We couldn’t let this go down.”
“Lotta good people in this neighborhood,” said Steven Smith, longtime neighbor, “she’s one of the brighter stars in it.”
“Miss Linda is a staple here. She isn’t going anywhere.”
Simply put, it would be a cold day in Disney World before Miss Linda lost her house.
After four months of coordinated neighborly demonstrations, including two neighborhood block parties, fundraisers, art shows, bake sales, online fundraisers and a letter autographed with over 400 signatures, Miss Linda received more donations than she could shake a ladle at.
Money came from all over the U.S. Anonymous donors were sending cash and checks wherever they could mail them. Money came online. Money arrived in neighborhood mailboxes. Money was even making its way to the Lyndale United Church of Christ, who was receiving donations for Miss Linda by the metric ton.
Eventually, Miss Linda was told she had the option to purchase her house before the end of June. Which was a major win. But there was still a lot of work to be done, and not much time to do it.
So her fan club took to the streets. Her real-estate agents worked pro bono. Her friends told Miss Linda’s story to anyone who could fog up a mirror. And as of a few weeks ago, Miss Linda’s neighbors and supporters had raised over a quarter of a million dollars.
It was enough to buy back her house. It was enough to give a meek elderly woman her life again.
Recently, Miss Linda signed the papers and closed on her home. A block party ensued in Powderhorn Park. People danced, laughed and ate way too many refined carbohydrates. And somewhere in the privacy of her own home, nestled somewhere among the houseplants, Linda wept.
“Makes me feel so good. Everything that I have given is coming back to me.”
Said the Soup Lady.