Thursday, February 26, 2004

Profiles in Homelessness: The Loretta Story

After a trip the post office I was caught in a downpour of rain and hail uncharacteristic for this city. I was walking with my head down against the wind and almost collided with local homeless vamp Loretta as she was wretchedly making her way toward the church steps. She has really not been looking good lately, so please...don't get too attached. Her lifestyle on the streets is taking a real toll and her eye is infected and swollen shut again and she is still on crutches. Later when I was at the reference desk I asked the Fiesty Old Broad about her. The FOB knows everyone’s business in this neighborhood and she gave me a brief history of Loretta’s life.

Although she came from a well-to-do family, her mother was an alcoholic and Loretta ran off and married a black ex-con drug dealer when she was 17 and had a whole passel of bi-racial children with him. She soon tired of domesticity and began to hit the bottle hard and have affairs. She hatched up a plot to have her husband arrested so her boyfriend could move in with her and they could live happily ever after on her husband’s drug money. Her plan backfired when the police couldn’t find any of the contraband after they came to search the house, and soon after the police left her husband gave her a good and solid beating and threw her out. She slinked off to Sacramento and never saw her husband or her children again.

She was living in a homeless encampment down by the river in **** when she somehow bewitched a Mormon prison guard with a serious savior complex into marrying her. Being a good Mormon he was temperate and naive to the ways her devious and manipulative alcoholic mind worked. He wised up pretty quickly, though, and it was not too long before he threw her out too. Having blown her last chance at lower-middle class respectability, she became a permanent resident of the street and residential hotels of this city. Even though the state and various charitable institutions have sent her to rehab and halfway houses countless times, she cannot remain off the streets.

The FOB actually took her in to her apartment and nursed Loretta through pneumonia last year. Loretta was the model patient, until the FOB said,

"Loretta, you're almost well and you've been sober for 12 days. How about we see about getting you in rehab?"

"Uh-uh. It's the first of the month tomorrow, and I'm going to go get my check and get drunk."

"Get the hell out of my house."

Even though she is pushing fifty, her face ravaged from exposure, her body fat and swollen from drinking, she has retained enough of her charm so that she is the belle of this neighborhood’s homeless. At this point she is not too choosy, but she does prefer black men and she always has an entourage around her to do her bidding. She rewards them frequently for their troubles in the bathroom stall of the park until the police come and break it up. I promise to do my best to get a picture of her before she dies and is buried courtesy of the state.

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