Where can I find interesting street kids?
January 8, 2014 1:33 PM   Subscribe

I’m working on last minute research for a project. I’m doing a road trip across the country this spring (between Feb and May) looking for interesting street kids/drifters/squatters/train-hoppers, between the ages of 18-24. I want to visit as few locations as possible so they should have a high density of these kids. Also, the kids need to be Caucasian because of the nature of the story. What are some cities/neighborhoods/events/festivals/places that draw a lot of kids who fit this description? Also feel free to include any resources I could use for more research. Thanks!
posted by sabina_r to Human Relations (35 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Drag across from the University of Texas at Austin.
posted by lunalaguna at 1:37 PM on January 8, 2014

Warm weather cities are probably going to be your best bet, though I remember there being a significant crust-punk scene when I lived in Boston, as well. Which makes me think that, in addition to good weather for sleeping on the streets, there's also a sense of wanting to be in a "young" city.

New Orleans has a ton of people living this lifestyle, and they pretty much all hang out in the French Quarter, which is a dense walkable area where you should be able to quickly find lots of people.

My understanding is that there's a lot of this in Portland, as well. On preview, seconding Austin.

Burning Man, Coachella, and Bonnaroo come to mind as festivals that likely attract this subculture, but they cost money to attend so YMMV.
posted by Sara C. at 1:38 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seconding Portland. I'm hesitant to go into much more detail without hearing a bit more about the nature of your project.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 1:40 PM on January 8, 2014 [7 favorites]

Portland, OR and Seattle, WA have no shortage of potential patrons.
posted by oceanjesse at 1:43 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Also bonus points for specific neighborhoods, parks, buildings within these cities that draw a lot of transient youth.
posted by sabina_r at 1:44 PM on January 8, 2014

Definitely New Orleans French Quarter.
posted by radioamy at 1:47 PM on January 8, 2014

C-Squat in NYC.
posted by griphus at 1:49 PM on January 8, 2014

Waaayyyullll, you could always check out the lot at Dead or Furthur shows. Or do kids not do that anymore?
posted by Elly Vortex at 1:49 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To answer the question about nature of the project: it's a feature film project that needs real kids who have history in their faces.
posted by sabina_r at 1:52 PM on January 8, 2014

There are a number of places across the midwest, too. Lawrence, Kansas and Bloomington, Indiana come immediately to mind, although one could make the argument for Iowa City, Iowa or Knoxville (or Nashville), Tennessee as well.

Not knowing much about your project, my own two cents would be that you may have an easier time finding these kinds of communities in smaller sized cities -- there tend to be a few hotspots, instead of like, hundreds.
posted by likeatoaster at 1:53 PM on January 8, 2014

Asheville, NC.
West Philly.
Tompkins Square Park, NYC
posted by entropone at 1:54 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thirding New Orleans. We've even had a FPP about them.
posted by komara at 1:58 PM on January 8, 2014

The east end of Golden Gate park down through Haight Street in San Francisco.
posted by eschatfische at 2:00 PM on January 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Phish lot, if they're back on tour by May
posted by Dr. Zachary Smith at 2:09 PM on January 8, 2014

Nthing Austin. Especially you can be there for the Chaos in Tejas festival (late May), which tends to be a gathering place for train-hopping crust punk kids.
posted by Pizzarina Sbarro at 2:14 PM on January 8, 2014

Seattle: University District, Capitol Hill neighborhoods

San Francisco: Union Square, Mission/Valencia, but be careful there because a lot of the hipsters are tatty.

Portland: I was there a couple of weeks ago and there were a ton of young white people (kids) begging with signs in the Pearl.

When I was doing research on homeless youth years ago I learned there is a triangle route between Portland, Vegas, and Seattle depending on what season it is.
posted by Lardmitten at 2:18 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Rachel Aviv wrote an interesting article for the New Yorker about homeless LGBT kids in New York called Netherland.

You have to pay to read the article unless you have a local public library or a university nearby that has an online subscription, but the article definitely points out specific places where kids in that situation congregate.

Here's a teaser.
posted by Fister Roboto at 2:23 PM on January 8, 2014

Best answer: Lots of possible places in Philadelphia. I might give you more specifics if you memail me. One thing to note though; I volunteer at a place where lots of these kids congregate, and we periodically get calls from bored cops looking for dissidents. They never come right out and say they're cops, of course, but there are markers that indicate people from outside the community looking for criminal activities (which can be as innocuous as having anarchist beliefs) or poverty porn. Depending on who you talk to, you may have an uphill battle convincing people that you're not some kind of informant.
posted by ActionPopulated at 2:27 PM on January 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

Just a piece of advice: I would tread very carefully when assuming that people are all white in these scenes, particularly if you yourself are white. I have seen way too many situations where someone assumes that a punk/crust/traveler/etc scene is all white people and really sticks their foot in it. Folks sometimes look at a scene, decide it's all white and then read all the people of color in the scene as white, thereby erasing the contributions of POC to the scene.

Also, how are you envisioning this working? Have you done a lot of interviewing with people from subcultures-to-which-you-don't-belong? I'm sure there are places where folks will just up and talk to you or pose for photos or whatever, but there's also a lot of places where folks are going to assume you're a cop or a social worker or writing some kind of punksploitation and they won't be exactly matey. If you walked in to one space I'm thinking of and no one knew who you were and you started asking a lot of personal questions, you would get absolutely zero traction.
posted by Frowner at 2:28 PM on January 8, 2014 [32 favorites]

Also, people may pull your leg. There was a story written about my high school alleging as how there was just satanism all over the place (this was the eighties) and it was because reporters showed up asking leading questions, decided to interview the punks because they looked "dangerous"....and everybody lied and lied and lied, just to fuck with them. (I was not part of this but I knew the people involved.)
posted by Frowner at 2:30 PM on January 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

You know what I'd do? I'd call up some radical bookstores and anarchist social centers (I leave googling them as an exercise for the reader), talk to the people on the desk and try to make some contacts before you get there. You may not get the people who are really messed up - if that's actually what you're looking for - but if you make some connections beforehand, you can put out a call for kids who want to be in the film. Especially if you can offer some cash - a lot of people would be really into something like that if the person was reputable and the project wasn't creepy and there was $20 in it.

People routinely send out flyers and announcements to this type of place saying things like "Do you want to be in a film about working class punks [or related] ? I will be in [place] from [dates] - contact me at [email]".

I think you'll have the most luck if you do some serious groundwork first.
posted by Frowner at 2:36 PM on January 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Former street kid piping in: A lot of these people have records, are on the run, are hiding from people, (and have trust issues at the very least) and may be less that excited to be filmed or approached.

Try contacting the great people at Outside In in Portland. They might be able to help you.
posted by haplesschild at 2:37 PM on January 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

Lots of kids matching that description in Little Five Points in Atlanta during the summer.
posted by dortmunder at 2:56 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Folks, OP is not anon. You can email them with non-answers to the question if you have other advice to give them. Thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:28 PM on January 8, 2014

I know you said you want to do a road trip, but if you want to find train hoppers, roads are kind of the wrong place to look. There is no better way to be sure of meeting active train hoppers than hopping trains. If you want to minimize the number of places you go, attempt to travel repeatedly between a few locations.
posted by yohko at 4:59 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well, the (allegedly) last Plan-It-X Fest is this June in Bloomington, IN -- about 1,000 tickets have already been sold, so that's a fair amount in one place for ya. It's a diy/folk punk scene and the mix is not exclusively crust/train-hoppers, but they make up a pretty big contingent of the overall community.
posted by Pwoink at 5:03 PM on January 8, 2014

Seconding Little Five Points in Atlanta. The kids will not be exclusively white kids, but there will be plenty of white kids.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:54 PM on January 8, 2014

Arcata, CA in Humboldt County (about 5-6 hours north of San Francisco) is a great place to find street kids. Nthing the suggestions that many street kids are on the streets for reasons out of their control, so they might be difficult to meet and make friends with, but Arcata is a wonderful small town with a huge, HUGE population of transients/street kids.
posted by ruhroh at 6:07 PM on January 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you're willing to wait until the summertime, every year Bloomington, Indian hosts Plan-It-X Fest, a general orgie of folk-punk bands and crusty travelers. This year it's June 20-22.
posted by Grandysaur at 6:52 PM on January 8, 2014

Tucson. Lots of drifter-type youth and a surprisingly high lot are Caucasian. Train hoppers seemed to end up there.
posted by thewestinggame at 7:57 PM on January 8, 2014

Feature film or feature doc? There's train yards in Los Angeles where train hoppers seem to congregate, but it's not likely that you and a camera are going to plop right alongside. I think doing as much research and making contacts before you head out will give you the best results. Be prepared to trade something of value for their time or looks, ie paying.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:19 PM on January 8, 2014

Allison Murray did something similar: Train On the Brain, fyi. She hopped trains with folks and filmed the journey.

Seconding (thirding, fourthing) the idea to contact local infoshops and make some connections first. Think you'll get some better results that way if someone is willing to make introductions for you.
posted by cardinality at 10:42 PM on January 8, 2014

West Philly. You get crust punks and gender queer / trans people building their own support families and renting out or squatting in big old homes with some operating like communes / co-ops / alternate living setups. Also a few veterans homes and sober houses in the area with older people that "have history in their faces."
posted by WeekendJen at 11:48 AM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by box at 4:38 AM on January 15, 2014

Perhaps your director/writer/story editor should reflect on what your difficulty finding this imagined 100% Caucasian street kid culture says about the "reality" that they're trying to present.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 5:31 PM on January 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

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