“I speak with a smile.” Linda Pincheon is a Tenant Support Specialist at SECU The Rise on Clanton. In her role, she provides a warm greeting to guests and tenants who enter and exit the building, and she monitors the building’s activities, from answering tenant questions to navigating fire alarms.
She remembers her first day at Roof Above’s North Tryon Men’s Shelter. She says, “I didn’t understand homelessness. I didn’t understand the struggles. So when I walked in that first day, I was terrified. I didn’t want the guests to know I was afraid, so I just started talking to everybody.”
She quickly realized that shelter guests wanted someone to talk to, that they wanted to hear something good. Linda says, “It made me feel like I could instill some positivity into them. From that day, I knew I was at the right place. I thought, if they can only get a smile from me today, they’re gonna get it. I don’t care what’s going on outside. I don’t care what’s going on in my life.”
In the four years Linda has worked at Roof Above, she’s spent time at almost all the campuses. She started as a Shelter Specialist at the North Tryon Men’s Shelter, but she’d also pick up shifts at Lucille Giles Overflow Shelter and Howard Levine Men’s Shelter, as well as weekend shifts at the Day Services Center. She says, “I like what I do. I hated to know they had an open shift and no one would be there to cover it.”
When asked why that mattered to her, she says, “I like for guests to see a familiar face because it builds trust. They know I have their best interests at heart. It bothers me that a stranger may not be as open to receive their personalities, so I’ll pick up a shift so they can have a familiar face.”
Eventually, she received a call about a new opportunity at The Rise on Clanton. She is asked to sometimes cover the desk at Moore Place too. And she helped get Roof Above’s newest permanent supportive housing facility, which serves those 55 and older, up and running. When someone has a need, Linda says yes as often as she can.
She has to remember to take care of herself too. Linda’s healing from double pneumonia. Because of her strong intuition and her protective nature, she advocated for herself to receive the care she needed from a pulmonologist. She says, “I had to because I knew something was wrong. But I thought, I got too much to do. You can’t let me die. I’m not finished yet.”
Linda has two special-needs children, who are now grown. She’s always tried to protect them from negativity. She wants to protect people experiencing homelessness too. She says, “It’s so easy to stereotype. It’s so easy to label. Just because you’re homeless, you’re still human. You have a heart.”
“I’ve trained myself to hear what the guests are not saying. I can tell by their walk how they’re doing.” She’s learned that when a guest or tenant is upset, those feelings are not because of her. “That anger is not toward me. It’s either their environment, their situation, their past. We don’t know that story.”
She remembers one Father’s Day that was difficult at the shelter. She was upset that there wasn’t a special event planned. She says, “Some of these people have no one to visit them. You know how lonely they can be.” So she took a moment and asked God for something special to happen. Linda says, “Not much later, an 18-year-old young man showed up with two humongous sheet cakes and gallons of ice cream. It’s the little things like that.”
Linda’s role includes handling tenant needs, signing in guests, and monitoring the campus. She says, “Sometimes it’s overwhelming, but I handle one guest at a time. I handle one visitor at a time. The camera is my lifesaver. I have to remember, I’m the first impression. I represent Roof Above.”
She prepares herself to come to work, and to leave at the end of the day, by reading and listening to motivational things.
When Linda needs to protect her own peace of mind, she says, “I’ll put in for PTO, a mental health day. And I’ll take that day, and I’ll focus on me.” She reads and watches movies. She also loves to spend time with her special friend, visiting her children or being with her sisters and goddaughter, Melanie. Melanie is an MSW with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and she works part-time as a Roof Above Shelter Specialist. She introduced Linda to Roof Above.
Before Linda joined Roof Above, she retired from a 32-year career in management. Her sisters ask her when she’s going to retire for good to hang out with them, but she says, “Every day I get up and I say I’m not ready.”