Discovering the drains

“I didn’t know he was homeless because he took me to this apartment. Well, it was a motel room, but when you’re homeless that’s an apartment to you. Then one day he didn’t pay and he said, ‘I stay at this other place, too, and you can meet my friends.’ I’m thinking, Right on. I got a guy that’s got his own place. I can meet his friends and maybe get back on my feet—and he takes me to this ditch. I’m like, Whoa. I started getting scared because of my history of being raped. I started crying. We’re near the Rio and we walk down this embankment, and I started freaking out and I said, ‘You’re going to kill me, aren’t you?’ He said, ‘No. I forgot my rope and shovel.’ He’s drunk and laughing. I said, ‘It’s not funny, dude.’ He goes, ‘Let me get my key out,’ and he pulls out a flashlight. He said, ‘I know this looks weird, but you’ll meet some good people and it’s safe and it’s better than being on the streets.’”

—Melinda, in the drains from 2009 to 2011

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