On the wall behind Hopelink Case Manager Linda Tappan’s desk hangs a map of the world, speckled with red and black sewing pins. Behind every pin is the story of a family Linda’s partnered with, having pressed a pin to each family’s home country or state for sixteen years to remember each one.
“Same office, same job. I never had any desire to move on to any other position besides being a case manager,” said Linda.
As the pins on Linda’s map have added up over the years, Hopelink’s Housing and Family Development Programs have grown tremendously, thanks in part to the case manager’s experienced approach and impassioned advocacy for her clients.
This fall, Linda will embark on a new journey into a well-deserved retirement.
In the beginning
After beginning her journey with Hopelink in 2007, a pin on Linda’s map found its place in Ethiopia. The mother and daughter it represented had moved into Hopelink’s Avondale Park site when a loss in the family gave way to unexpected challenges. As Linda and the duo’s working relationship grew stronger over time, one day, they invited Linda up to their home to share an Ethiopian coffee ceremony. Linda sat on the floor across from them as the mother brewed the piping hot coffee on a tiny burner.
“That was this little piece of bonding,” Linda said. “I learned a little bit about her and what that’s all about. I can’t tell you how lovely that was.”
While aspects of Linda’s role have evolved since 2007, the core of her case manager duties have remained the same: working with families experiencing housing instability, walking alongside them in finding temporary and permanent housing, as well as developing sustainability to reduce chances of reentering housing instability.
With sixteen years of daily practice, Linda has built a robust toolkit of resources to support her clients. She begins her partnership with each client by simply getting to know them, diving in to learn about their background, their wants and needs, and talents. After this, she and the client customize a long-term support plan tailored for their unique goals.
Looking back on her first few years as a case manager, Linda is proud of how both she and Hopelink have grown.
“We’ve very much evolved around a more client-centered way of practicing,” she said. “It’s been very rewarding since then. My job has also changed as I’ve learned more. I’ve become more aware of resources and connected with people in the community that I can make contact with on behalf of folks here.”
A few years ago, Linda played an important role in Hopelink’s implementation of Trauma-Informed Approach practices in the Housing and Family Development Programs. One important component of Trauma-Informed Approach is ensuring people who use Hopelink services always have autonomy when it comes to their decisions.
“(I meet) people right where they are. It’s not my job to change them,” she said. “It’s my job to be the navigator and let them be the pilot. That’s what I see in (my coworkers) here… Our clients are in charge of their lives and we’re there as a support.”
Linda’s office is situated at the entrance to the rest of the Housing staff offices at Avondale Park. As she plunks away on her computer, she whips her head to the left each time the front door opens and a resident enters, sharing a wave and a smile before they head upstairs. Some of them poke their heads in, say hi, or ask for household items like toilet paper and laundry detergent – to which she points them towards the supplies stacked on shelves across from her.
To her right, another door stands ajar where her coworkers often appear to ask for advice or share a laugh. Much like the crisscrossing pins on her map, Linda’s office is an exchange point for Hopelink’s Housing and Family Development Programs. Whether it’s a staff member or a resident, people embrace their pit stops at Linda’s office.
Program Manager of Housing and Case Management Bre Hufman will miss those pit stops filled with Linda’s warm embrace. She said, “Linda always strives to make those around her feel known and welcome. It’s hard to sum up what she has meant to this team as she has brought a wealth of knowledge, compassion, perspective, determination, and such fierce devotion to the work that we do. We are forever grateful to have had her on our team.”
“I’ll miss the families upstairs. I will truly miss that,” Linda said. “I’m working with an immigrant family now and I want to see them find a house so badly before I leave. I’ll miss my coworkers. Malory (Gustave-Trask, Hopelink Housing Director) has done such a marvelous job of bringing together a group of vibrant young women who have the same passions. They’re learning the field in their own time just as I did, but their passion for social justice and for their clients is just amazing. I really am leaving everything in good hands.”
Going off the map
To celebrate her retirement, Linda is carving out a new map of her own, beginning with a two-week European cruise with her husband. Once they return, she’s excited to have more time with her 94-year-old parents and her grandkids as they enter adulthood. However, Linda is sure she’ll find herself at Hopelink once again, volunteering in the food markets.
“At the end of the day, (my husband and I) will be selling our place, buying a home somewhere, and living our years together while giving back,” she said. “It’s going to be hard because my heart is here. I’m definitely keeping in touch.”
Hopelink’s nine programs, including Housing and Family Development, work in tandem to fill gaps, supporting each family or individual’s unique needs. To support this work, click here to take action.