Linda didn’t look homeless. Her eyes were clear, not filmed with an overlay of alcohol nor colored with manic intensity or fright of the mentally ill. Her neatly trimmed brown hair hung free down to her shoulders and softly encased her oval face. Her clothes were always cleaned and neatly pressed. In the shelters she always sat in the last row or vacant chair, causing no fuss, drawing no attention her way. She was the type of woman who would easily blend into the fabric of middle class existence. Ridding the bus one might take a quick second glance her way, seeing no hint of her homeless status.
But upon closer inspection, not all was well. Her lips never turned up in a smile. The eyes were always on guard as if she expected trouble around the next corner. And in her ordinariness, her lack of acting out behavior was in itself the clue. She just didn’t belong in the shelters. Didn’t belong sitting day after day, week after week, month after month, never going anywhere, never keeping appointments of any kind, never asking for help from the outreach workers that flowed in and out of the shelters like the tide.
In the end she did keep one appointment: an appointment with Death. It was Death masqueraded as a scumbag that paid a visit to her homeless camp next to the freeway. Death came brutal and ugly.
In the end she was just another statistic to the city. Just another unsolved murder, another death amongst the homeless to be filed away and forgotten. But for those of us who managed to finally exchange a fleeting glance with her, a burning, hurting mystery lingers. Not only the identity of her cowardly murderer, but of the tragic life that this poor woman lived and how her visit to the streets of Santa Barbara would end up causing her death.
An arrest has been announced in the 1997 murder of Linda Archer.
Other mysterious deaths and murders of the homeless including, Gregory Ghan, Ross Stiles and the inhumane burning death of Gloria remain unsolved.
This article first appeared in my book: There Must Be Honor, a collection of writings interspersed with my autobiography and then in noozhawk.com