Port Townsend’s ‘homeless wonder’ survives the elements

PORT TOWNSEND – Gudrun Jensen says she has slept in her rusting, leaky Volvo for much of the past eight years.

Jensen, a cheerful 77-year-old free spirit, is one of the more visible homeless people in Jefferson County.

She can be seen walking along Highway 20, her daily routine.

Wearing a long parka and knit hat, she walks from her car about a mile into town to savor a sweet roll and coffee at Safeway or QFC.

It’s often her sole nourishment for the day, said her close friend, Mary Hewitt.

After walking around town, Jensen tires out and returns to her car.

“She’s Port Townsend’s homeless wonder because she’s survived so many years,” Hewitt said of the woman she believes to be in line for the oldest homeless person on the North Olympic Peninsula.

“She doesn’t even realize that it’s upsetting everybody – that she’s accepting this lifestyle.”

Hewitt, the night manager at Water Street Hotel, has known Jensen since 1992.

At this stage in her life, Jensen cannot remember moving to Port Townsend, which has Hewitt worried about dementia.

When the early freeze and snows fell in November, Jensen disappeared and was not seen for two weeks.

“We thought she just went off and died in a ditch somewhere,” Hewitt said.

Jensen was found shivering, disoriented and could not recall what happened.

During what many believe to have been the harshest, wettest winter in 10 years in 2006, Jensen was forced to sleep upright in her leaky vehicle to avoid getting wet.

That’s when Hewitt stepped in, offering Jensen a hotel room, to get her out of the elements.

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