March 19, 2009 -- After a long search, ABC News finally found the woman whose heroism touched so many viewers on a recent segment of "What Would You Do?"
On the day we first met Linda Hamilton, producers did an interview with her there on the street, and offered her food, which she courteously declined. We tried to contact her the next day but the telephone number she gave us was out of service, and the Newark, N.J., street she told us she lived on didn't exist.
We visited homeless shelters, soup kitchens, train stations, all to no avail. But by showing video to other homeless people and various agencies, we gradually zeroed in on one neighborhood, and a number of locations where she sometimes showed up. And, finally, Wednesday, a bodega owner called us excitedly: "She's here!"
That same day, John Quinones was finally able to show Hamilton the segment that had moved so many to tears. He read her some of the e-mails viewers had sent in, which caused a shy smile to flit across her face, and he gave her a pre-paid cell phone so that we could keep in contact with her. When the 42-year-old saw the cell phone, her face lit up like that of a little girl on Christmas day: "My own cell phone! I got my own cell phone! And it comes with a charger!"
Until last summer, she had been living in a homeless shelter, but recently dropped completely off the grid. For at least the past few days, she has been sleeping at night at an aunt's apartment in very crowded conditions.
We took her to New Jersey Emergency Services, where executive director Genia Philip and her staff began the process of getting her enrolled in programs that could cover her medical costs, housing and food.
Linda Hamilton Gets Much-Needed Care
The process is complicated by the kinds of problems that are so often associated with homelessness. It turned out that under her maiden name, Hamilton was indeed in the system, and has been in and out of crisis intervention care for mental problems for many years. She told us she had been in a psychiatric facility during part of the time we were looking for her. She has had two strokes, she said, and a variety of other life-threatening illnesses, but, until now, was not enrolled in a program to pay for the expensive meds she was prescribed.
Last night, we watched as she got to take her medications for the first time in some time.
"You promise you're coming back tomorrow?" Philip asked as Linda left the Emergency Services office.
"I'll come back," Hamilton said.
Those who would like to help this organization provide services for Hamilton can make contributions to:
Newark Emergency Services fund to benefit Linda Hamiltonc/o Genia C. PhilipExecutive DirectorNewark Emergency Services for Families982 Broad StreetNewark, N.J. 07102