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Street Kids

Street Kids: Homeless Youth, Outreach, and Policing New Yorks Streets

Kristina E. Gibson
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Street Kids
    Book Description:

    Street outreach workers comb public places such as parks, vacant lots, and abandoned waterfronts to search for young people who are living out in public spaces, if not always in the public eye. Street Kids opens a window to the largely hidden world of street youth, drawing on their detailed and compelling narratives to give new insight into the experiences of youth homelessness and youth outreach. Kristina Gibson argues that the enforcement of quality of life ordinances in New York City has spurred hyper-mobility amongst the city's street youth population and has serious implications for social work with homeless youth. Youth in motion have become socially invisible and marginalized from public spaces where social workers traditionally contact them, jeopardizing their access to the already limited opportunities to escape street life. The culmination of a multi-year ethnographic investigation into the lives of street outreach workers and 'their kids' on the streets of New York City, Street Kids illustrates the critical role that public space regulations and policing play in shaping the experience of youth homelessness and the effectiveness of street outreach.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3337-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface: Ali Forney, the Death and Life of a Street Kid
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. 1 Introduction: The Street Youth Dilemma
    (pp. 1-23)

    I first heard about Ali Forney at a community board meeting in Manhattan’s affluent West Greenwich Village, a picturesque and historic New York City neighborhood of tree-lined streets shading meticulously preserved brownstones. An eclectic mix of art galleries, high-end restaurants, old taverns, and specialty shops make this neighborhood both a busy commercial center and a popular tourist attraction. Greenwich Village also was the site of the 1969 Stonewall riots that launched the gay civil rights movement, and it has been an epicenter for gay culture in New York City for more than one hundred years.¹ Gay youth have traditionally made...

  6. 2 The Space of the Streets
    (pp. 24-59)

    In 1995, independent filmmaker Larry Clark directed a documentary-like movie that chronicles twenty-four hours in the life of a group of New York City teenagers, starring several street kids. Clark already had attained notoriety for his stark photography of young male hustlers in the Times Square area in the early 1980s. Times Square traditionally was where young homeless men survived through sex work, and in the 1990s, Ali Forney and his friends were surviving there by similar means. Clark’sKidsfollows a group of young people as they fight, take drugs, steal, get high, hang out, and wander aimlessly from...

  7. 3 Blacc, a Street Kid from Far Rockaway, Queens
    (pp. 60-76)

    When you take the A train from Manhattan to the easternmost reaches of New York City, you have a one-in-three chance of ending up in Far Rockaway. Winding along metal rails set high above the neighborhoods, the elevated A train takes you over a seemingly endless landscape of brick houses, rusting gas stations, and weed-filled lots. Eventually the tracks split, with one long prong heading out toward the Atlantic Ocean and the Rockaway peninsula. Perched on the far edge of Queens, wedged between the flat, gray waters of the ocean and the affluent suburbs of Nassau County, Long Island, Far...

  8. 4 Street Outreach
    (pp. 80-110)

    Outreachis the practice of contacting socially marginalized populations in their physical and social environments. For outreach focused on homeless youth, this typically involves efforts by social service providers to reach out and engage kids “on the streets.” Because of past abuse and fear of adult authorities, many street kids are hesitant to seek out help on their own. But what does “reaching out” mean? What is the social landscape that street outreach workers enter when they seek out youth on the streets? How do outreach workers enter, occupy, and conceptualize these spaces? Are outreach interactions on kids’ terms or...

  9. 5 StandUp for Kids and New York City Outreach
    (pp. 111-139)

    On a freezing night in December 2004, a group of new volunteer street outreach workers hit the sidewalks of New York City. StandUp for Kids, a nationally based volunteer organization, had tried once before to start an outreach program in the city. Despite fifteen years of successful outreach to homeless youth on the West Coast of the United States, they failed to maintain an active outreach group in New York City. That previous spring and summer, in a second attempt to revive volunteer street outreach in the city, experienced outreach counselors from the West Coast spent four months training new...

  10. 6 Public Space: Policing Street Kids and Outreach
    (pp. 140-157)

    During the midsummer of 2006 as part of a national partnership, StandUp for Kids began a series of volunteer events in New York City for Virgin Mobile employees. Although the StandUp for Kids leadership recognizes the impossibility of recreating a street kid’s daily experience, street retreats help break down stereotypes of homelessness. To do this, the participants in the retreat spent twenty-four hours on the street without money, cell phones, or identification. They became tired, stressed, and hungry, but only for a short time, whereas for young homeless people there is no end in sight. As a result, the participants...

  11. 7 Running off the Map: Mobility, Street Kids, and Street Outreach
    (pp. 158-180)

    On a warm spring evening in New York City, small groups of young people stroll around a West Side park and the adjoining neighborhood. They chat animatedly, gesturing wildly and laughing loudly. Young people run up to welcome friends and shout greetings across the narrow streets at other young people passing by. The general mood is one of excitement: young people out in the city, socializing. Groups of kids zip in and out of coffee shops, pizza joints, and corner stores. To a casual observer, this scene would seem like a slice of relatively normal urban life. Yet in the...

  12. 8 Conclusion: Where Does the “Move Along” Dance Take Us?
    (pp. 181-192)

    In 1998, theVillage Voice,a New York City–based, alternative weekly newspaper, ran an article entitled “Nowhere to Go: New York Is Hell If You’re 18 and Homeless.” ¹ The article centered on an account of city council members riding along in a street outreach van through Times Square. They watched as an outreach worker handed out condoms and informational fliers to kids who “flocked to his window.” They were reportedly amazed that these kids looked like any other New York teenagers. One city council member remarked, “What’s shocking is not that there’s this group of young people but...

  13. Appendix A: Research in the Streets (in Retrospect)
    (pp. 193-206)
  14. Appendix B: Data Collection Methods
    (pp. 207-212)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 213-228)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 229-242)
  17. Index
    (pp. 243-246)
  18. About the Author
    (pp. 247-247)