Unlike many of my other works, this piece is not about theory or ideology. It does not discuss evidence, or reasoning, or logic, as to the ideas that I believe about society. Rather, it is a confession of the things I have witnessed, as I was a homeless person. There is some discussion of ideology and beliefs in the following pages but it must be understood that the topic of this paper is what I personally witnessed while being homeless. The location of this was in southern Louisiana, in and around New Orleans (other towns include Metairie and Gretna). The time frame of this is December to March, including Mardi Gras ("Fat Tuesday"). And now, I tell my story...
My Time on the Streets
When a person becomes homeless their relation to society changes entirely. Once while sitting on the sidewalk with my friends, who were asking for change, a person came up to us and gave them a plastic compass, remarking, "Here, this is so you can get some direction in your life."
The homeless themselves are a divided class. Among them there are gutter punks, the class I belonged to, who were renowned for their particular taste of violence, sex, and alcohol. Gutter punks tend to be younger but could range in age from 12 to probably much older. Amongst the gutter punks there are even more divisions including street kids, street punks and peace punks. Peace punks are sometimes called "crass kids" after one of the prominent bands of all peace punks. Street kids are just young homeless people. Street punks are street kids who like punk. Peace punks are anti-war, anti-America, Communist and Anarchist. Gutter punks typically have an image which society has portrayed as "violent." Wearing mohawks (often times spiked and dyed), leather jackets with studs in them and boots that went up to our knees. In my experience there was the typical bum, or "home bum," who carried around an amount of property twice his own weight. That is one essential difference between homebums and gutter punks: the first sometimes never made the whole transition from homed to homeless. If you are homeless there must be an understanding that there is no place to put property. Thus, those who have more property must carry it, it becoming a burden to them. Essentially, those who have a limited amount of property will be most comfortable in the homeless lifestyle. If we gutter punks ever carried anything more than the clothes on their back, it was a bag pack that had a sleeping bag attached to the bottom of it.
I was walking down Gov Nicholls Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans when I realized that there is a true rapport among the homeless, typically being stronger among the home bums. I was walking with my friend Humble; almost all homeless people go by a nickname, after successfully shoplifting food from a Walgreens when he told me, "That's what I believe. Steal from the companies. Give to the people." And so that was our routine.
I remember once watching as a truck came up to a restaurant deposited two enormous bags of fresh bread and left them at the door. I remember my friends and I grabbed the bags and took off. Since we had such a great surplus of subsistence we immediately shared. Every homebum and gutter punk we came across received a great amount of bread. As we were walking through the ghettos on the way to our squat we gave bread to everyone we saw. The elderly African folk sitting on their porches, their eyes probably having seen more conflict than I could imagine, seemed old and tired and we hoped that the bread we gave them would help give them strength to dream again. It may seem odd to someone who is not homeless, how this may happen or how these transactions may occur. As we were walking down the street one of us would notice a person living in poverty and we would say, "Hey, you want some bread, brother?" They would smile and obligingly take some. I remember the day that we stole that bread from the restaurant. It was a good day and the food was for the starving masses.
That was one thing about the ghetto though, almost everyone was African in descent and almost everyone there was working a shitty $5.35 job at some tourist store just so that someone could take a plane to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and pay $50 for a piece of stupid tourist product that initially cost $2.50 to make. The luckier ones shared a two bedroom apartment with six individuals. Once I was invited to one of their apartments to spend the night and I was the fifth person sharing a single bed. I have seen 10 to 15 individuals sharing a "sleeping room", a single room which is approximately 10 feet long by 6 feet wide; it has a bed and maybe a cupboard depending on the particular sleeping room. You open the door and there's your bed, hence the term "sleeping room." The occurrence of the 15 people sharing one of these rooms was an exception; the regulation is closer to 4 to 6 people sharing a sleeping room. In numerous cases this includes children as young as 10 years old.
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Punkerslut (or Andy Carloff) has traveled all across the United States and has experienced American life in the urban centers, as a homeless squatter and as a blue-collar, working-class laborer. Since high school and early development, he has composed a variety of ideas on education, politics, and economy. His positions are ultra-leftist: politically an Anarchist, economically a Socialist, and culturally a Syndicalist. His writings are available through his website: http://www.punkerslut.com
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