BY JEFF DEENEY “Today I saw…” is a series of nonfiction shorts based on my experiences as a caseworker serving formerly homeless families now living in North and West Philadelphia. I decided not long after starting the job that I was seeing so many fascinating and disturbing things in the city’s poorest neighborhoods that I needed to start cataloging them. I hope this bi-weekly column serves as a record of a side of the city that many Philadelphians don’t come in contact with on a daily basis. I want to capture moments not frequently covered by the local media, which tends to only cover the most fantastically violent or sordid aspects of life there.

TODAY I SAW a monger scoop up a prostitute under the El at the corner of Monmouth Street, a block north of Cambria. It was 8 am on the dot; the rising sun in the east softly illuminated the transaction as a pale, freckled and deathly skinny white girl with waist length bright orange hair looked both ways for patrol cars before running out from the doorway where she waited for a John. Her faded jeans rode real low, revealing the red g-string panties she wore underneath. She ducked her head in the open passenger side window of a tan Hyundai Sonata saying a couple fast words and nodding her head off in the distance. “Are you datin’? I know a spot.” She scrambled to hop in as fast as she could and the car sped north on Kensington Avenue.

This early in the morning there are still a lot of streetwalkers still working in broad daylight; the crack addicts are still at it since last night and trying hard to come up with the cash for that last blast and the dope addicts are just coming to, kicking off another day of hustling and in need of a wake-up dose to stave off sickness.

Further south on Front Street between Jefferson and Master, where the girls stroll along a desolate row of industrial warehouses and garages, there was a pretty young black girl sitting on a concrete slab attached to the facade of a building. She had her hair intricately arranged and also wore low riding jeans that revealed a white thong string that hugged the curve of her hip. She had on an orange halter top with a deep v-neck. When she saw me she started yelling and waving, then making loud, smacking kissing sounds when I was at the stop sign directly across the street. She reached inside her top and took her left breast out; she shook it in my direction as I drove past, then lowered her head and licked at her nipple.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeff Deeney is a freelance writer who has contributed to the City Paper and the Inquirer. He focuses on issues of urban poverty and drug culture. He is also a caseworker with a nonprofit housing program that serves homeless families.

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