Rail Riders/Drifters/Beggars/Punks Incite Caring/Curiosity/Disgust/Fury

If you’ve walked around neighborhood streets over the past few weeks, you’ve likely noticed a few new visitors who look and smell like they haven’t showered in months. Maybe, like photographer Stephanie Bassos, you gave them $9, a bag of cat food, and two cans of Coors in exchange for snapping their picture, and sharing the humanity you saw in them with others, which we’re sharing here with Stephanie’s permission.  Or, perhaps like nearly 40 Bucktown and Wicker Park residents, you packed a room in the library at this past Thursday’s Beat 1434 CAPS meeting to express your frustrations over the youths.

Last night, as The Pipeline was walking back from a chamber networking social, we noticed at least three encampments of drifters on the sidewalk on Milwaukee Avenue. A girl was scribbling her thoughts into what looked like a moleskin brand journal. A guy next to her was just sitting on the sidewalk, people watching. In front of Bank of America near six corners, another youth was singing off key as her companion played an acoustic guitar. An open guitar case on the sidewalk in front of them contained two crumpled bills, some change, and a sign which said, “Traveling, broke, hungry.”

A resident named Richard posted various candid photos of the youths on the Bucktown Facebook Page Wall.

We sent R.  a message asking if we could share his photos “of the homeless kids.”  He responded, “Calling them ‘homeless kids’ is dishonest. They are scum drug addicts. The answer is no.”

R’s very strong reaction got us thinking about the wide range of emotions these youths are eliciting from the community, ranging from people who would drive them out of town with burning pitchforks if they could, to those that have offered them clothing, given them dog food, or are just curious as to why they are here and where their families are.

In this week’s pipeline e-newsletter we included a few photos of the drifters snapped by Stephanie. A Bucktown resident named Jennifer wrote in with her thoughts, below.

“I am so curious about these drifters that wander into our neighborhood each spring and summer.  Where are they going?  Where are they coming from?  How long are they staying?  Do they travel the same route each year?  Why in the name of Pete do they not keep themselves clean?  What’s with the all dark clothing?   I often buy their dogs food.   I chat with them a bit but most seem hesitant to talk to me.  It’s as if someone will reprimand them for talking to the lady with the stroller and the two big dogs.  They all look like they would benefit from a hug.   And a nice chat with their mothers as well.  Never have I mustered the courage to ask them what they’re all about.  Does anyone know anything more about these kids?   For whatever reason, I’m dying to know.

Thank you. 

Jennifer J”