My name is Suzanne Lindsay. I started modeling at 18 and then became a life coach, and I have a book out on Amazon. As a model, they tell us never to disclose your age, so let’s just say I’m older than 50 and younger than 60.
I was married and had two children, and I was living in Llewellyn Park, N.J. I had a very loving, wonderful lifestyle, when both of my children died at different points in time. I was in such grief I could hardly practice my life coaching. I had 39 clients, and then I just had five. I was grief-stricken and stopped paying my real estate tax, and my grandson, who was living with me, and I were forced out of my house, and we had no place to go.
In the late ’80s, early ’90s, my husband and my children and I used to come to Martha’s Vineyard every summer. In the winter we’d go to Palm Beach.
When we were forced to leave our house, my grandson went to stay with another family member, and I decided to go to the Vineyard. I stayed with my brother-in-law on the Island for a few weeks, and then after that, I stayed at Nashua House in Oak Bluffs for as long as I could. And that was the start of me moving 23 times in nine years. I’m not going to go through all of them — I can hardly remember them all myself.
At one point I put an ad in the paper looking for a room, and a woman who sounded very nice replied, and I ended up taking a disgusting room for $600, but after a month she said, “You’re going to have to leave,” otherwise she was calling the police, which she did, and I had to pack up my car and leave. It turned out she was suffering from dementia.
I eventually found another place where I stayed with a woman and I helped her. I stayed there for about a year, but she too had dementia, and ended up throwing frozen vegetables at me. And that was the end of that.
Recently I lived in a place in Edgartown for a year and a half that used to be an inn, but then the room became full of mold, and they never fixed it.
You have to understand, I’m used to living in a lovely home. At one point I had to sleep in my car for almost three weeks because I had nowhere to go. I would take showers in the public bathhouse, where the boaters go, in Oak Bluffs.
You might think that people on the Vineyard who don’t have homes or places to stay are poverty-stricken, but that’s not necessarily true; some are in the same situation I am. I had the money, I’ve always had the money. I came here with alimony, but it doesn’t matter, even if you have money it’s often hard to find a place. I talked to someone the other day and he’s paying $1,300 for one room. So many people just live in rooms here on the Vineyard, it’s become a very unattractive place to live anymore. I used to think Palm Beach was expensive. This is more expensive than Palm Beach. I met a guy who worked on my car who was living in the back of a box truck.
They have a term for finding housing here, it’s called doing “the Vineyard Shuffle.” I hate that term, it’s an attempt to normalize a heinous situation where people are forced to move twice every year. Harbor Homes said they’re going to try to help me out, but I don’t want to live in Island Eldlerly Housing, I just don’t want to do that.
It’s unbelievable when I think about what I’ve gone through on the Island, and how strong I’ve had to be. I’m not bragging, but it’s true most people couldn’t have done this, especially women.
Last winter I stayed at the Vineyard Harbor Hotel. I stayed there for six months. It wasn’t bad, it was a little room with a kitchenette, and it was clean, but I had to move out because the summer was coming. And currently I’m staying with a friend; she has a beautiful home, and we get along very well. And then she’s going to help me find another place to stay. What’s hard is the constant stress about where you’re going to be living. It’s a horrible way to feel, I’m sure it’s why I have a condition in my stomach.
I could never have imagined that this is the way I’d end up spending my retirement years. It’s been very difficult, but I’m very strong and very spiritual. It’s just been God’s grace that’s allowed me to survive.
I’m working five hours a day, five days a week, on the ferry, at the snack bar. I remember when I was in Palm Beach, I worked for the Palm Beach Society Magazine — I was the advertising manager.
I’m still not living with all my possessions. For the last nine years they have been in storage in Cheyenne, Wyo., where I once lived for a while. There are antiques and oriental rugs — God only knows when I’ll ever get to see them again.
For now, I’ll stay here until I leave, and at some point I’d like to go back to Palm Beach. I don’t even want to be here anymore … it’s just not the same as it used to be.
Interviewed by Geoff Currier.