Member Spotlight: Margo’s Journey of Creativity and Recovery

Keeping Her Mother’s Memory Alive

After all of the times I had to run away from home to feel comfortable, after living on the streets for so many years… Step Up showed up and let me know how much I was loved. They saved my life”, says Margo, pictured above creating a new Connie May’s Sister Love Doll.

Can you imagine experiencing homelessness for any length of time? At 56 years old, Margo can. After experiencing chronic homelessness for almost 20 years, Margo is now a longtime Step Up member and native Angeleno who has been enjoying her permanent supportive housing for nearly ten years thanks to the generosity of supporters like you.

While continuing to work with Step Up on her ongoing recovery, Margo creates Connie May’s Sister Love Dolls, named after her late mother, to keep her memory alive.

Can you talk to us about how you ended up experiencing homelessness:

On and off for 20 years I spent on the streets of Los Angeles. One of the reasons I hung out in the streets was because living on the streets was safer than living at home

I had a very strict mother who sometimes didn’t have the patience for me. She would say mean things to me, and I couldn’t be around that. She was verbally abusive, and I felt so “less than” that I searched for friends in the streets. That’s what led me to doing drugs. Once I had my kids, my mother kicked me out. She didn’t want her grandkids to be around a drug addict. It led me to being homeless.

How did you find out about Step Up and can you describe your journey to permanent supportive housing?

I used to spend time at the park near Olympic and La Cienega. Lt. Green, a policeman at the Wilshire Department, would help me. Then one day as I was sitting in my beach chair, Cathy walked by. Cathy was with Step Up’s outreach team and was offering to help find housing for those of us who were experiencing homelessness. When I said I needed help, Cathy signed me up. It took a while, but they found me a place in Long Beach because I did not want to be downtown. After four years, we looked for another place. Eventually I ended up here back in Pico-Robertson. I love it here!

How has your life changed since you became housed?

Step Up is the best! With Step Up’s help, I know now who I really am and who I can be. The staff really cares and every time they said they were going to be there, they were there. It wasn’t about the job for them. It was about the person they were trying to get off the street. They were friends. They made me laugh. After all the times I had to run away from home to feel comfortable, after living on the streets for so many years, Step Up showed up and let me know how much I was loved. I felt comfortable. They saved my life.

What inspired you to create Connie May’s Sister Love Dolls?

I started making these dolls when my mother was dying. I wanted to better myself before she left this earth, and I was in a program for drug treatment at the time. After dinner one night, I went to my room and saw a hanger on the doorknob. At that moment I had a vision of making dolls with hangers. I just crafted them one by one. I get my material for the dresses at the Goodwill. I have one inspired by Diana Ross.

Sometimes I ask myself why my mother said the things she said or did the things she did. But no matter what’s she’s done, she’s still my mother and I still love her regardless. I wanted her memory to last and that’s why I named the dolls Connie May’s Sister Love Dolls.

Have you reconnected with family?

 I got one son that stays with me frequently now and takes care of me. I wasn’t there for my kids when they were young. I just missed out on so many things with them, as far as them growing up. It’s something you can never go back to, but they have forgiven me. I just want them to be proud of me. “ 

They say, “Recovery is not one and done”. What do you say about recovery and why do you believe it’s possible?

Recovery means that I open my eyes and see what life really is. Being tired of being tired and being around people that weren’t my friends. At the end, the fog lifted and now I can see what’s really in front of me. The dolls are part of my recovery. They make me feel happy because I am reminded that I accomplished something in my life. They give me comfort and a vision of who I really am. They give me hope and a vision for the future. When I’m gone these dolls are going to be here. I wasted too much time, so I’m desperate to try to make something of myself now. I want to start a business so that when I’m dead and gone, my sons can say, ‘Oh, this was mom’s’.”

Margo and Lauren, can you share about your current collaboration?

Margo:  Lauren is amazing. I have a bad reading problem, and she said she would help me do that. She is wonderful. She has patience. She comes with a smile and makes me feel that I’m important. She is awesome!

LaurenMargo is so willing and open; her energy is infectious. She’s creative and she’s not afraid of trying. We’re working on setting up an Instagram account and an Etsy account, those little tangible goals that really aren’t that little. It’s important to Margo. She has the perseverance to do things a dozen times and not give up.

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