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Tori's Tale from the South, Arkansas via California: How Tori Came to Live on the Streets

Updated on August 1, 2012

On the streets

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Tori's Mother; Elaine could no longer cope with her

When Tori’s Mother; Elaine, could no longer cope with her wild, and too smart preteen, Elaine did as her parents values required. Elaine adhered to her parent’s voice, using cold concrete certainty.

This is how you deal with someone who will not cease being. Tori was not afraid of life, or much of anything else. Elaine, her mother lived a fear based life.

Her Mother, was unwilling to learn about the world around her. She was afraid of everything. She worried all the time.

Tori’s fearlessness frightened Elaine. The young girl's constant questions, and always wanting to learn seemed freakish to her, and her Mother’s parents; Ruth and Elmer.

She could not call them grandparents, as they were cold and cruel. Tori was a square peg, in a round peg family. She did not fit, did not measure up, she had to go.

On Tori's 12th Birthday

Tori turned 12, that beautiful May day. She learned long before not to expect anything special, or even a mention of her birthday. Tori had been shamed a few years earlier into realizing that she came very last, in the family; if at all.

Tori's Mother had a surprise this May day. When Tori came from the room she shared with a sister, she was dressed and ready to go out for the day, when her Mother approached her with a small suitcase, $5.00 and the door.

She was sad to tell Tori, that there was no longer a place in this house for her. The new boyfriend did not like her, and in order for Elaine to have happiness, Tori would have to go.

Oddly, it was the first and last time she could recall her Mother telling her she loved her.

That last show of affection, cast a question mark in Tori’s mind for years.

When your own Mother doesn't want you, you go

Tori left with the tiny belongings she carried.

The child who had no childishness about her was given all of the adult worries and responsibility.

Although her mother's ceremony should have broken Tori's heart, it could not, as she had only know hate, discouragement, and a sorrow of her being born, and living to the age of 12.

As soon as Tori's feet hit the pavement, she was thinking of her small plans. She still had her school to attend, and there were some people who would let her crash at their homes sometimes.

The city of Alhambra was pretty tame as far as crime went, but the things that happen to a young woman, without a parent to protect her, weren’t viewed as crimes, but opportunities.

Somehow, Tori survived

Over the course of the next couple of years, Tori survived somehow.

Some nights she would sleep in, under someone’s hedges, at other times, an alley could provide a multitude of hiding places. Every night she had to sleep outside, she would spout the mantra; "It is always darkest before the dawn", and she had one to add, "it is coldest right after the sun rises". Those two truths were what tucked her into her sleeping place at night, and propped her up each morning.

There were Mexican-American parents of Tori's schoolmates, who wanted to make sure Tori was fed and clothed, and many of them didn’t mind Tori staying a couple of weeks at a time.

As kind as the Mexican American momma's were to help her, and let her crash with them, there was a leering, grabby husband, uncle or cousin usually to be found, so Tori was quick to pick up the signals, and would parry her moves with the clocks ticking around her.

Tori learned to be an excellent house guest. She didn’t even bother to soil a families extra bed. She learned to sleep on top of the covers to keep from making them dirty.

Tori did not climb under the covers for another reason: safety, just in case she needed to make a quick getaway from someone trying to take advantage of her..

In a few months, Tori was able to secure a place to receive mail

It took a couple of months, to do, but Tori finally managed to get a mail drop; somewhere she could receive mail. For herself, Tori knew that she had to attend school, and work.

Although there was not a lot of mail that would be sent to her, being able to receive her mail, and get her friends and counselor to help her with the parent things, made a big difference for her.

Her counselor worked at a safe haven, called the Open Door Drug Clinic. The Open Door was another part-time home and family, where she could be safe and secure a couple of days per week. The Open Door director usually had some food brought in as well, this helped supplement Tori's nutritional needs.

The Open Door Drug Clinic was

The Open Door Drug Clinic was located in Alhambra. California. They worked in conjunction with the County Health Department, in dealing with such issues as pregnancy testing, venereal disease, birth control, abortions, adoptions, and counseling.

Substance abuse problems, and mental issues were dealt with primarily at the Open Door. They offered a wide range of mental and health needs. Tori discovered the Open Door when she was trying to find the Health Department.

She was 14 and going to get birth control pills. She had been raped a few weeks earlier, and afraid of disease or an unwanted pregnancy, she decided to try the new birth control pill on the market.

Her first impression of the Open Door Drug Clinic offices was good. She thought the people working there, and the place itself was cool. Outside, there was a long ramp, instead of stairs into the Open Door. The people there were nice.

When she showed them the paper in her hand, the Open Door staff sent her next door to the Health Department. Once at the health department, she had to watch some movies on venereal diseases, and the prevention of pregnancy. She also got Birth Control pills.

For other health information about personal hygiene, female sexual health and personal care, Tori inquired about, she was sent back over to the Open Door. On the door was a sign saying they offered safe haven from the police. The cops brought in a lot of heroin junkies for treatment. Tori was happy to learn that they didn‘t only help junkies. They offered a wide variety of free or discounted mental health and health services..

Tori found out that a minor could be emancipated in the State of California

Tori learned of an Emancipation act for a Minor in the State of California. From what she had gathered, she had been holding all of the requirements, except being able to rent or buy her own place. She did attend school full time, and she worked full time.

Once Tori had been seeing Connie for a few weeks, she felt courageous enough to ask for help from her counselor.

Tori asked Connie, her psychological counselor to help lead, and guide her to independence. If she got emancipated, she would no longer have to leave schools, or jobs for lying on her applications. Her heartless parents would no longer be able to pull her life out from under her.

When she approached Connie her counselor, Connie was blown away by Tori’s request. She had no idea of what Tori had been living through. Tori came to see Connie every couple of weeks, sometimes more, depending on the stresses Tori was going through. It was hard for Tori to talk about her feelings. She did not understand a lot about feelings, because Tori was birthed and raised to 10 years old without any affection, or words of Love.

Tori had her own bed, and her own room, she could eat everyday

Connie’s husband Rod, worked at the Open Door too. He was a licensed psychologist and on the head of the board at the Clinic.

When Connie discussed Tori's situation with Rod; first having gained Tori's trust and permission from Tori to discuss it, Rod suggested the idea of Tori becoming a Foster Child of sorts.

At 15, and the last four of those years on her own, it would be impossible to expect Tori to turn back to being a child. They would grant her many freedoms, but she had obligations to be a good house guest, continue working, going to school, and learn to expand her small world, and learn more about the whole.

Connie and Rod lived in Pasadena, where Tori had a temporary job through the High School in Alhambra. Tori was not mature enough to see the Kismet of the situation. She had been living in Alhambra, and through her student work program, they put her to work doing a temporary job of inventory, to work in Pasadena, at Hoelscher‘s Men‘s Clothing store. It was on Colorado Blvd, in Pasadena.

Because of her maturity and demeanor, Hoelscher‘s put her to work part time after school, and all day on Saturdays.

Hoelscher's was closed on Sunday.

Moving in with Connie and Rob was a fantasy come true. She had her own bed, and her own room.

Tori was more secure than she had ever been. Staying with Connie and Rob, she was able to sleep solidly at night, bathe and brush each morning, and eat everyday.

Connie and Rob had hundreds of books in their shelves, they were mostly non-fiction, self-improvement, awakening type books, that Tori read through as if in a race.

From her first day in their home, they worked to help her gain emancipation, and helped her learn to set goals that before were impossible


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    • LillyGrillzit profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori J Latimer 

      6 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I am happy!

    • LillyGrillzit profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori J Latimer 

      6 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      Thank you billybuc, it is true! There are so many ways this young un could have been done in, but she survived!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      A wonderful tale....and a very common tale for so many teenagers on the streets....but at least this one appears to have a happy ending. Great job!


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