She let the strangers keep coming back after they gave her $20.
But Georgianna Richardson, 38, knew what was going on inside her kitchen and living room. The strangers were drug dealers, and they were snorting, packaging, and selling cocaine, all the while inviting outsiders to her first-floor apartment, she said yesterday.
Residents say that is the problem at 14 Lyndhurst St., one of two red-brick buildings at the center of the troubled area they call the Hell Zone.
Drug dealers take over some of the low-income apartments near Washington Street, and the tenants let them do it. The police know it happens. The neighbors know it. And even the landlord knows it. But despite drug busts, evictions, and community meetings, the problem does not go away.
''We've made hundreds of arrests, but we live in the world of probable cause," said Boston Police Captain Frank Armstrong, commander of Division C-11.
''If we hear of drug deals, we get down here," Armstrong said. ''My guys get set up, they observe, but they've got to see the sale."
Armstrong said he knows that some of the people who live in the Queen Anne-style mansions on the Allston Street end of Lyndhurst's single block would like him to order officers to arrest everyone who looks suspicious and hangs out on the Washington Street end, at the two troubled apartment complexes there.
But he said his job is to protect the rights of people living on both ends of Lyndhurst.
Some residents say landlords have to do more to ensure that crime does not happen on their property.
''Where are they?" asks Shirelle Gomes, who lives just two houses away from the Hell Zone. ''Why are they letting these people in their buildings?"
''I'm trying to clean it up," said Ted Ahern, who purchased 12 and 14 Lyndhurst Street last August for more than $1.1 million, according to state registry records.
Since he purchased the 12-unit building, Ahern, a lifelong Dorchester resident, said he has evicted 10 people, including Richardson, whom he kicked out last month because of her involvement with drugs.
Ahern rents to those willing to pay the market rate and to those who receive government assistance, including recovering addicts.
But before he lets them in, he said, he runs a criminal background and credit check.
And if there is any sign of trouble, Ahern said, he tries to find legal cause for eviction, such as an arrest record, he said. But that does not stop new dealers from moving in.
Sitting on the stoop of her old apartment building, Richardson, who said she was visiting friends, said she was a recovering addict.
She began living on Lyndhurst Street when her treatment center recommended it to her three years ago as a low-income option.
''I looked outside my window for weeks, and all I saw was drugs, people selling drugs, people doing drugs," said Richardson, who now lives in a homeless shelter. ''I'm a recovering addict. This place is not healthy for me."
But the dope dealers, she said, prey on the weak.
At first, Richardson refused to let the strangers into her apartment. A female drug dealer stabbed her in the arm. The woman also punched a hole through her window. The hole is still there.
Eventually, the dealers got in, she said. ''What they do is they knock on the door and ask to use your bathroom," she said. ''Then when they leave they hand you a $20 bill. They get you because they know you're in the heat of an addiction. They say here take this."
Richardson does not think she should have been evicted.
''We're the users, not the dealers," she insisted. ''I mean, I know I'm part of the problem, but I'm not the problem."
Drug dealers are among the problems the Rev. Bruce Wall has vowed to clean up during his weeklong occupation of Lyndhurst Street.
Yesterday, in response to a challenge from a man who warned Wall not to bring his people to Mora Street, Wall surprised the residents of Mora by showing up with police, including Commissioner Kathleen M. O'Toole and members of the Nation of Islam.
''You can't tell me that I can't come here," Wall said.