YGO COP 2: Duel 16 – Old Enemies, New Tactics

Maya and Yukio hastened their way back to the city of Assiut as much as they could with Akira, who could barely walk on their own. When Maya dueled Akira their blood boiled so hot from the challenge of fighting such a strong duelist and from the life-or-death pressure of the game they forgot all about Sophia. They knew only one thing could have happened to her and they feared for the worst.

The entire marketplace broiled in chaos. The duelists ran in all possible directions in a delirious panic, fleeing from the bloodthirsty hunters who stalked them. The Ghouls destroyed everything in their path to catch their prey, smashing every shop they saw, looting it for any trinkets they could get their hands on. Sometimes the Ghouls humored their prey with a duel, playing with their food before they ate it, as was their habit. Many a duelist hoped in vain the Ghouls would leave them alone if they beat them in a duel, but it was a false hope the Ghouls gave them just to hurt them even more. Sometimes the Ghouls didn’t even bother with a card battle. They beat their prey and ransacked them of everything but the clothes on their back without any formalities.

Some duelists fought back, like Mathias, Maximus, and Ivy, somehow repelling their attackers. Maya saw that, somehow, their holographic monsters made a huge dent on the Ghouls, as if they were more than holograms. If the Ghouls tried to manhandle them, the trio quickly put them down. She barely noticed any of this through the forest of duel monsters, running people, and burning shops, but she noticed it nonetheless.

Yukio pointed at the trio for he saw what Maya saw, and they hurried to them as fast as they could with Akira hobbling with them. They never reached their friends. The trio disappeared deeper into the chaos, everyone swept around in a whirling circle of death as dry autumn leaves. Instead, a regiment of Ghouls closed in on them, their cloaks as black as night. Their leader immediately tore off her entire cloak. Alexis Burkeheart, Matthew’s companion, had a deathly pallor. Her black hair, once sleek and short, was long and disheveled and she replaced her white Academy skirt with a dirty black dress.

Alexis pointed at Maya and Yukio, her eyes glimmering with a violent expression. “You humiliated Matthew in front of the whole world and ruined his life. I’ll kill you in a duel and bring you to Matthew. Our mission will finally be done.”

“How about we wager our fates. You know, duel the old fashioned way?” Maya offered. “If you win, you can take us to Matthew to depose us how he wishes. If we win, you only have to tell us where Sophia is. You’re this thing called a ‘true duelist’ Matthew babbles about, aren’t you?”

“Let me take care of this. It’s my turn.” Yukio said to Maya. He stepped up to the plate, showing his duel disk to Alexis as an unsheathed sword. “Tell us who you work for! Matthew isn’t bad enough to cause this much misery by himself!”

“Over my dead body.” Came Alexis’ reply. “Once I defeat you, we will both finally have peace.”

“I accept your challenge but with our wagers. Agreed?”

Alexis nodded and said, ““I keep my word.”

Yukio: 8000 || Alexis: 8000 

YUKIO’S TURN: “I summon  Thunder King Rai-Oh !” Yukio declares, and a sentient electromagnetic machine levitates in front of him. “I set a card facedown. Go.” Time is already running out for Sophia. The duel must end as soon as possible.

ALEXIS’ TURN: “You think a cheap, antimeta track will stop me? I activate  Nekroz Cycle , sacrificing Great Sorcerer of Nekroz to summon  Nekroz of Unicore .” A magical, golden thread loops into a circle and a wizened wizard passes through it in death. Then a young man appears, with blue armor that looks like it has pieces of a deceased unicorn’s body. “Nekroz is one of the best decks out there, a tier one – no, a tier zero! – deck. It can’t lose to something as low as Heroic Challengers.”

Yukio thrusts his hands over his head, and challenges, “Then come and get me! Put me in my place the way Matthew puts you in your place every night, if you know what I mean, though I can tell he probably doesn’t give you enough action now. You went from model to anorexic since we last saw you.”

“Talk to my tier one deck! Unicore, slay Rai-Oh!” The necromancer-warrior leaps at the electric android.

Forbidden Lance !” Yukio quickly retorts. “Unicore loses 800 ATK.”

“No, it won’t.” Alexis counters. “I discard  Nekroz of Decisive Armor , giving Unicore a 1000 ATK boost!” A long, finely crafted lance springs from nowhere and spears Unicore in the gut, but even that doesn’t stop him. He wrecks Rai-Oh with its blade, making it explode in its face. (Yukio LP 8000 à 7400)

“I activate Cycle, banishing Sorceror and itself to add another Cycle. This activates  Great Sorcerer of Nekroz , so I mill Clausolas. Now I activate  Nekroz of Brionac from my hand. I discard it and add Valkyrus. And I set a card face down.”

YUKIO’S TURN: Yukio is left to ponder his next move. Alexis is a smart, methodical duelist, he thinks to himself. She plays meta, but she does it smart. Then again, you can’t play dumb with Nekroz. “Her only problem is she showed me her hand. She’s scared I’ll screw up her hand more with more antimeta plays next turn, but she made a mistake!” Yukio realizes. “She is predictable. She plans to summon Nekroz of Trishula next turn! I have a combo, but I need to play smart and stop my monster from getting banished.”

“Here goes!” Yukio announces aloud. “I have no monsters, so I Special Summon  Heroic Challenger – Assault Halberd  and summon  Satellarknight Deneb.”  Two warriors, one with dark, heavy armor, the other glowing in golden, celestial armor appear together. Alexis looks surprised at the sight of the celestial warrior, and Yukio answers her, “I always try something new. I activate Deneb, adding Altair to my hand. I overlay Halberd and Deneb to Xyz Summon  Number 85: Crazy Box .” The warriors collapse and fuse in a worm hole, giving rise to what looks like a massive floating Rubik’s cube.

“Now for the fun part, I detach Halberd to use its effect.” The cube twists and turns chaotically, leaving everything to chance. “What happens depends on the number it shows.” Yukio looks calm but is tense inside. His monster could either take out Alexis’ monster or blow up his entire field. It was called Crazy Box for a reason. Suddenly, the cube stops twisting, showing the number “3” on its gridded surface. Yukio leaps for joy as an arrow released from its bow. “AAAHH YEEEAAAHHH! SUCK ON IT! DISCARD A CARD RIGHT NOW!” Alexis reluctantly does so.

“Crazy Box, destroy Unicore!” The cube slams into the sorcerer hard enough to crack its armor and its skull. (Alexis LP 8000 à 7300) “I set a card face down. Your move.”

ALEXIS’ TURN: “Draw!  Nekroz Mirror , activate!” A gateway forms from mist behind Alexis, with a surface transparent enough Yukio can see himself perfectly from a few meters away. Is it a mirror of glass or of water? “I banish Clausolas and Brionac to summon  Nekroz of Trishula !” Two sorcerer-warriors in ocean blue armor form in the reflection, and disintegrate into the mist.

“I activate  Imperial Iron Wall! ” Yukio tries to halt her, but with no effect.

“Counter with  Royal Decree ! It negates all traps, so you can’t stop me from banishing my monsters!” And Alexis’ ritual proceeds as according to plan. The dissolved Nekroz reform into a new, far more powerful knight, who then steps out of the mirror into reality.

Suddenly, a large holographic card with an image of small, crawling insects inflates in front Alexis’ view. “I discarded  Maxx “C”  while you weren’t paying attention.” Yukio says. “I draw a card.”

Alexis sweeps the information aside; a small annoyance. “I use Trishula to banish Crazy Box on the field, Halberg in your Graveyard, and one card in your hand.”

The new monster strikes its blade in the air. Crazy Box evaporates into mist and the ghost of Halberd is exorcized. Yukio holds two cards up. “Choose carefully.”

Yukio’s move gives Alexis pause. Most duelists cower in front of Trishula, afraid even to let a card randomly get banished, but Yukio strikes her options right in front of her! Alexis feels cold tears of sweat roll down her neck. Is she nauseated from malnourishment or does her decision bear that much weight? How can it? She wins ninety-nine of one hundred duels with Nekroz! Yukio is such an inferior duelist to her! Then she recalls how Maya one turn killed her four years ago. Her deck back then was one of the most elite out there, with Elemental Hero Stratos as its focus, but she lost in one turn.

Yukio glares at her, eyes piercing, unwavering. “Choose!”

Alexis shakes away her doubts as a bad headache. “The right one.” Yukio banishes the card Instant Fusion. “Back to the duel. I banish Mirror and Unicore from my Graveyard to put  Nekroz Kaleidoscope , and I activate it.” A spectrum of mirrors forms behind her, sliding in and out of each other. The white and ethereal Stardust Dragon reflects in the mirrors before the mirrors quickly slide away from one another. “I summon  Nekroz of Valkyrus !” A knight in even more extravagant and intimidating armor than Trishula appears by her side.

“Monsters, direct attack! Put Yukio in his place!” At her command, both of her knights leap at Yukio and struck him down with their blades. Yukio wobbles on knees but stays on his feet. (Yukio LP 7400 à 1800)

“Seriously, how do holograms do that?” Yukio moans. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

“Maybe shadow games are real or maybe they put drugs in our water to make us hallucinate it all so we can spend more money on card games. Beats me.” Maya replies simply and honestly.

“Conspiracy theory much?”

“I want to believe.”

YUKIO’S TURN: “Finally, my turn.” His plan worked! Now he has all the puzzle pieces in place for a decisive victory. “I activate  Reinforcement of the Army  to fetch another  Heroic Challenger Assault Halberd and Special Summon it.” Another copy of his dark-armored warrior takes the field, wielding its burly axe. “And I summon  Satellarknight Altair , which lets me summon Daneb from the grave.” Another celestial soldier descends from the heavens, accompanied by its companion. “Then I activate  Inferno Reckless Summon !” And two more Daneb spawn.

“Go, monsters! I overlay all you to Xyz Summon  Number 86: Heroic Champion – Rhongomyniad !” Yukio’s entire army vanishes into five twinkling stars, opening a gateway to the cosmos, heralding the arrival of a colossal hero with shining platinum heralds. “I have five Xyz Materials, so Rhongomyniad kills your whole army!” The grand hero gestures with his hand and in a blaze of fire all of Alexis’ monsters evaporate as sea foam at the shore. “Rhongomyniad, attack Alexis directly!” His monster strikes Alexis down to the market place pavement. (Alexis LP 7300 à 4300)

Alexis’ servile Ghouls, who stood by and watched the duel the entire time, swiftly rush to help their master without a second thought. Alexis, with the help of her squad, returns to her feet, only to realize the duel is done. “I should have banished the other card.” She sighs ruefully. “I made the wrong choice.”

“You didn’t.” Yukio corrected her. “Instant Fusion or Reinforcement, I would’ve turned the game around.”

ALEXIS’ TURN: She draws her last card, another Trishula. Rhongomyniad stops her from playing anything. There is nothing she can do.

YUKIO’S TURN: “I summon  Heroic Challenger Thousand Blades .” A bronze fighter carrying innumerable swords joins the fight. “Thousand Blades, Rhongomyniad, attack for game!” His two soldiers strike Alexis down, this time once and for all.

Yukio: 1800 || Alexis: 0 

The Ghouls returned their leader to her feet again. Alexis’ eyes were dull and glazed, and she barely could stand on her feet. “Good game, Yukio. Not bad for a rogue duelist.”

“You too.” Yukio acknowledged his opponent in mutual respect, but an impatient Maya cut their moment short.

“Where’s Sophia?” She demanded. She spoke with a fearful urgency Yukio never heard before.

Alexis obliged her enemy’s demands, “She was taken by our second in command. He’s probably dueling her right now just to torture her and give her a false sense of hope. It doesn’t matter if she wins or not. He’ll probably just beat her up or worse.” Alexis trembled at the knees and fell down one final time.

“What the hell do you mean?” Maya shouted, her voice even harsher than before. “Don’t you dare be cryptic with me or I’ll do even worse to you!”

“Tell us who Matthew works for! Is it Heishin? Somebody else?” Yukio yelled even louder than Maya, but it was too late for the both of them. Alexis was out cold.

Surprisingly, the Ghouls kept their leader’s word and left, and as they did so Mathias, Maximus, and Ivy ran in, calling Maya’s and Yukio’s names, thanking their god they were all right. Maximus curtly explained their situation for brevity’s sake, “About thirty Ghouls surrounded us but we wiped them all out. Stella and her friends held their own.”

Yukio and Maya sighed in relief. Yukio sighed in relief, but Maya said, “Sophia is missing! We need to find her fast!”

Mathias and his company nodded grimly. Maximus knew exactly what to do. He slapped his Millennium Puzzle Card on his duel disk and requested the materialized Millennium Item, “Locate the duelist Sophia Petrova.” But the Puzzle shook, it’s frame distorted by glitches, and blue-lined code manifested in front of it. “The location of her duel disk was shut off, possibly encrypted.” Maximus sighed. “What now?”

Maya remembered how she deduced Akira’s whereabouts. She saw all duelists whose rosters weren’t corrupted by Ghouls. “We could use a Millennium Tauk Card to see all the encrypted codes, but,” her voice dropped, “not trace them.”

Maximus suddenly got an idea. “I know how. You still have a Millennium Rod Card?” Maya produced it. Maximus slapped it on the duel disk, the Millennium Item appeared. He requested all encrypted codes, and the holographic Rod obeyed, projecting from its eye every encrypted code. He recognized a code similar to the one the Puzzle displayed before it crashed. He pointed to it. “Trace the encryption to its source.” The Rod obeyed and produced a set of coordinates.

Yukio reached for his iPhone and entered them on Google Maps, which pointed to the nearest Nile cataract. “It looks like it’s at a cliff face. Maybe it’s a bunker.”

Upon hearing this news everyone knew exactly what to do. Everyone ran to Maximus’ car as fast as they could to rescue Sophia in time.


Brainstorming for Thesis


I am writing a thesis on what causes homelessness. Here is my big picture of things, politically speaking. It’s meant to a brainstorm so I can come up with a hypothesis for the thesis. Please leave comments and critiques if you wish.

North America and Europe are as of now neoliberal capitalist societies. (Some Marxists call this late stage capitalism.) This is similar to the older, industrial capitalism that came before, but it also has profound differences. The first big difference is how neoliberal capitalism is gradually replacing old-school industrial jobs with new, white-collar, service jobs, and a new “creative class” is emerging to take those jobs. The second big difference is how North America and Europe uses those new jobs to increasingly merge the economies of other nations into a global economy.

This is a “nicer” form of capitalism but is more insidious. In good, old-fashioned, old-school, industrial capitalism, working class people were exploited in dirty factories. Now the dirty factories are shipped overseas, and exploited, desperate people are far away from us where we can’t see them. The working class people now don’t have jobs. Most are already poor, but now they sink deeper into poverty. At the same time neoliberal capitalists gentrify the inner city where all the dirty factories used to be so they can open more white-collar, service jobs. The new, gentrified city is expensive to live in, so working class people must leave, becoming even poorer and more invisible.

At the same time, North America and Europe are becoming more stratified in wealth. This is a more typical critique of capitalism you hear. A small “aristocracy” of huge capitalists become richer and richer while the middle and lower classes sink into deeper poverty. In the process smaller capitalists get swallowed up, making the “aristocracy” at the top increasingly smaller and with a greater monopoly over everything. This machine has been around since industrial capitalism and keeps pressing forward well into neoliberal capitalism. Most, if not all, centrist and right wing political parties in America and Europe devote themselves to keeping this machine intact. The left wing is scattered, with little unison among left-wingers who cling to a small, narrow domain of interests rather than uniting for a common cause.

What does any of this have to do with homeless? The answer is all these capitalist things that are happening exacerbate factors that make people homeless. More people sink into deeper poverty and become more invisible to society. Homelessness is the extreme end of poverty. There are homeless people who temporarily lose their homes since they can’t find jobs or can’t afford to live in a gentrified area, for example. There are homeless people who come from poor, abusive, and mentally-ill families, and that sets them up to be dysfunctional. (In women’s case, a lot of women flee abuse.) All of these factors are exacerbated by how capitalism works by increasing poverty and cutting away vital services, as I described above.

As for intersectionality: it is common knowledge that being a racial minority or being a woman will worsen your quality of life and your wealth because of systemic racism and patriarchy. (Some feminists call these discriminatory practices, power imbalances, and prejudices white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.) When someone is a woman, black, and queer etc. their disadvantages pile up and make things much worse. This is especially true in terms of wealth. (White women earn about 75% that white men do, notwithstanding normalizing the statistics. Black and hispanic women earn even less than white men. People who are GLBTQ find employment harder than straight people.)

What does any of this have to do with homeless? Being a minority in some way is generally a disadvantage and increases your chances at poverty, especially if you are a minority in more than one way. Of course this isn’t black and white. Homeless people are mostly be black and male but extreme poverty on the whole is made up of more women than men. And generally capitalism in America and Europe has a vested interest in keeping things like systemic racism and patriarchy intact, as it gives more power and security to the top capitalists, who tend to be white and male. And as I argued above, poverty exacerbates chances and factors leading to homelessness.

Homelessness and Informality (Part 3)

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Homeless people have a harder time accessing medicine than the general population. While there are homeless people who simply cannot access formal medicine, there are many reasons why they more proactively choose informal medicine. The overarching reason they choose informal medicine is because they see it as an alternative form of treatment that allows them to be self-sufficient and keep a strong social network. More specifically, homeless people choose informal medicine such as herbs because it fits an alternative lifestyle. Others find more practical reasons for informal medicine: they simply cannot buy formal medicine and lack insurance. In addition, informal medicine is cheap and using it is a survival skill to cope with the violence, abuse, and isolation that comes with being homeless. Finally, homeless people distrust hospitals and other formal medicine, feeling unwelcome, discriminated, and that doctors did not understand their choices.

Whatever the reason, many homeless people urgently need healthcare. 75% of Homeless people have at least one unmet healthcare need.[1] They are very often uninsured, with two or medical conditions. 48% of them have a mental illness and, among them, 26% of them have difficulty finding treatment for their mental illness.[2] Homeless peoples’ food insufficiency correlates to their difficulty in accessing formal medicine, whether it be prescriptions, therapy, or surgery. However, lack of medical care correlates with many other factors besides food insufficiency. What can be concluded from the research is that the less food a homeless person has the more likely she will neglect medical treatment and instead focus on just getting enough food to survive.[3]

With such dire health, homeless people tent to take one of two options. They either seek informal medicine to treat themselves with the limited resources they have or they wait until they become morbidly ill and are taken to ER. In the latter situation, the hospital pays for treating homeless people from their own pocket, since homeless people are uninsured and lack the money to pay for their healthcare. While hospitals are generous to patients in immediate need, their generosity cans only go so far. Nurses volunteer to treat homeless people to try to fill in the void, providing informal medicine to those in need, their work unaccounted for in their salaries.[4]

Homeless youth are especially resourceful in using informal medicine. While they do encounter a formidable barrier to formal healthcare, they also use informal medicine because they have alternative or counterculture values.[5] Homeless youth have many informal options to choose from and take full advantage of their opportunities. “The most frequently used forms of CAM therapies were vitamins (76.4%) and herbs (73.6%). Other forms of treatments frequently used were diet (40.9%), massage therapy (38.2%), exercise (31.8%), acupuncture (27.2%), meditation (26.4%), aromatherapy (21.8%), homeopathy (17.3%), and chiropractic (11.8%). Slightly more than 7% of the youth used shamans, psychic healers, magic spells, and flower teas.”[6]

How homeless youth acquired informal medicine was as varied as the very medicine they take. Friends advised 53% of homeless youth and physicians and nurses advised 21.8%, bleeding the formal sector into the informal sector. Family members helped 20.4% of homeless youth, social workers aided 14%, while 18% of homeless youth discovered informal medicine themselves. While embracing alternate and counterculture values, homeless youth still had other smaller reasons within their larger one. Their most common reason, 43.9% of the time, was because they found informal medicine to be “natural” and “organic”. Homeless youth used informal medicine 28% of the time because of the low cost, 26.1% of the time because it had high chances of working, 24.2% of the time because they had bad experiences with physicians in formal medicine, 20% of the time because their friends recommended it, and 19% of the time because they severely mistrusted physicians.[7]

Unlike their young counterparts, homeless adults are less idealistic. They are much less interested in living an alternative lifestyle and more interested in having a reliable community, resisting the isolation homelessness brings. Homeless women in particular form communities with each other and informal doctors to access different kinds of medicine. Homeless women are innovative and self-reliant, preferring to go to a library or bookstore to learn about the illnesses they have before going to a doctor. They would also call a nurse in a volunteer counseling service, available in most major cities. Two young women in particular asked advice from a herbalist, read extensively on herbs, and consulted an allopathic practitioner for a diagnosis, before treating themselves.[8]

Social networks, such as the ones formed by homeless women, give homeless people extra resilience to deal with the many stresses of street life.[9] Strong social bonds from family and close friends had a protective influence over homeless peoples’ health. “Specifically, perceived financial support was related to better physical health status; perceived emotional support was related to better mental health status, and perceived instrumental support was associated with lower likelihood of victimization.”[10] The research from Dr. Hwang and his colleagues shows that a strong social network not only gives homeless people access to informal medicine but also acts as a kind of medicine itself, protecting the homeless, making it less likely for them to get physical and mental illnesses.

Homeless women turn to informal medicine instead of formal medicine from physicians in hospital for negative reasons also. Overall, they distrusted hospital physicians, thinking they would not understand the needs of their lifestyle. They also had little confidence in physicians’ abilities to keep information confidential. If a homeless woman or one of her friends was lesbian, she would strongly prefer the physician to be nonjudgmental towards gay people. Homeless women also strongly prefer if the physician was female, thinking female doctors will understand their lives better since they are both women and will be knowledge and sensitive towards female anatomy during intrusive physical examinations.[11] Many homeless women expressed how they wished physicians would give them more advice about how to medically take care of themselves and thought of visiting physicians only as a last resort.[12]

Homeless people throughout the United States, not only homeless women, feel misunderstood by physicians. In general, homeless people are painfully aware of their situation. Knowing they are society’s outcasts, they often perceive unwelcome and discriminated against in hospitals, frequently complaining of not being listened to and feeling disempowered.[13] This news is especially troubling since homeless people frequently have at least two medical conditions and one illness untreated. Homeless people have an especially high risk of premature death compared to the general population.[14]

In their accounts, different homeless people felt unwelcome in different ways. Michael felt people in the hospital thought of him as a freeloader. Luke said he felt discriminated against in most places, including hospitals, claiming just being in a mall for half an hour was enough to get a security guard to accost him. Michael said he was discriminated against the very first time he went to hospital when homeless.[15] Such hostility and prejudice is a very bad influence, making them less likely to seek professional care. It also makes them distrustful of all sorts of formal medicine and at times even experienced a form of stereotype threat, overly consciences of “looking and talking homeless”.[16]

Fortunately, there are relatively small but helpful volunteer nurses and hospice caregivers who try to provide some care to homeless people, making informal medicine more accessible. One form of informal medicine is telephone-based counseling where the caregiver or volunteer counsels the homeless person with advice.[17] Both caregivers and volunteers did more than give homeless people medical advice. They frequently fill the role of a kind of informal therapist, fulfilling several areas of need by providing homeless people with emotional support, advising them about self-care and logistical issues, and helping them cope with bereavement of lost ones and other crises.[18]

Telephone services provide other benefits to homeless people. For one, they are extremely convenient, eliminating transportational and geographical barriers that would otherwise prevent homeless people from speaking to caregivers and volunteers. Telephone-based counseling, like psychotherapy, helps treat depression and phone support groups alleviate the stress of homeless people with dementia.[19] There are several small downsides to telephone-based counseling, for both homeless people and volunteers. Telephone-based counseling ultimately exists only as a supplement to “real” healthcare. It can compliment but not duplicate hospital services.[20]

Caregivers and volunteers expressed how difficult their work was. Their work strained their relationships with their loved ones, especially having a hard time shifting from caregiver or volunteer back to a parent, spouse, or child. Most importantly, they felt frustrated at having such little information on the very homeless people they tried to help, and felt they could never be impartial or objective in their advice no matter how hard they tried.[21] Nevertheless, caregiving and volunteering is rewarding as it is challenging and it bears repeating how invaluable it is. When people are homeless any help, any sincere effort to reach out to them is better than none at all.


Overall, homeless people choose informal housing, informal economy, and informal medicine, for a diverse number of reasons that encompass three overarching broad ones. First, homeless people see informality as a way of being self-sufficient and taking control over their lives. Second, homeless people try to escape from a desperate situation to find an alternative route that could help them. Third, homeless people are simply forced into informality such as being unable to access the formal sector at all. All three overarching reasons are the result of both the pressures of extreme poverty and a lifestyle forged by abusive upbringing, poor socioeconomic status, mental illness, and drug addiction. They reflect the deep socioeconomic cracks in United States society and the millions of people who fall in them. They reflect the United State’s failure in being a free and equal society.

Wherever there are homeless people there is an informal network they are a part of, whether in large and bustling cities, suburban neighborhoods, or isolated areas deeper in the country. We like to believe our developed “first world” United States, a world superpower and one of the richest countries in the world, is the center of a global civilized world. However, it holds an entire informal underworld rivaling those of any developed country. The civilized world is only the surface level of our country. Beneath it lies a wild and uncertain world as in everywhere else. Homeless people in the United States and the informal networks they rely on show that informality is does not exist somewhere far away. Informality exists in our backyard.


“Economically Distressed Areas Program (EDAP).” Economically Distressed Areas Program. Texas Water Development Board, n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2015.

“Shantytown In Hoboken Hills Houses Nearly 50 Homeless People.” CBS New York. CBS, 1 Apr. 2015. Web. 05 Dec. 2015.

Baggett, Travis P., James J. O’connell, Daniel E. Singer, and Nancy A. Rigotti. “The Unmet Health Care Needs of Homeless Adults: A National Study.” Am J Public Health American Journal of Public Health 100.7 (2010): 1326-333. Web.

Bose, Rohit, and Stephen W. Hwang. “Income and Spending Patterns among Panhandlers.” CMAJ. N.p., 3 Sept. 2002. Web.

Breuner, Cora Collette, Paul J. Barry, and Kathi J. Kemper. “Alternative Medicine Use by Homeless Youth.” Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 152.11 (1998): 1071–75. Web.

Case, Ben. “U.S.: Homeless ‘Tent City’ in Harlem Ends in Arrests.” – Global Issues. N.p., 25 Nov. 2015. Web. 05 Dec. 2015.

Durst, N. J., and P. M. Ward. “Measuring Self-help Home Improvements in Texas Colonias: A Ten Year ‘snapshot’ Study.” Urban Studies 51.10 (2013): 2143-2159. Web.

Ensign, Josephine, and Aileen Panke. “Barriers and Bridges to Care: Voices of Homeless Female Adolescent Youth in Seattle, Washington, USA.” J Adv Nurs Journal of Advanced Nursing 37.2 (2002): 166-72. Web.

Erickson, Amanda. “Here’s Why We Can’t Just Put Homeless Families In Foreclosed Homes.” Business Insider. N.p., 28 June 2012. Web.

Gwadz, Marya Viorst, Karla Gostnell, Carol Smolenski, Brian Willis, David Nish, Theresa C. Nolan, Maya Tharaken, and Amanda S. Ritchie. “The Initiation of Homeless Youth into the Street Economy.” Journal of Adolescence 32.2 (2009): 357-77. Web.

Hwang, Stephen W., Maritt J. Kirst, Shirley Chiu, George Tolomiczenko, Alex Kiss, Laura Cowan, and Wendy Levinson. “Multidimensional Social Support and the Health of Homeless Individuals.” Journal of Urban Health J Urban Health 86.5 (2009): 791-803. Web.

Knight, Heather. “The City’s Panhandlers Tell Their Own Stories.” SFGate. N.p., 27 Oct. 2013. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.

Kovner, Josh. “For Chronic Homeless, Vacant Buildings Provide Shelter, Danger .” Contact Reporter. N.p., 9 Aug. 2015. Web.

Kutner, Jean, Kristin M. Kilbourn, Allison Costenaro, Courtney A. Lee, Carolyn Nowels, Jenny L. Vancura, Derek Anderson, and Tarah Ellis Keech. “Support Needs of Informal Hospice Caregivers: A Qualitative Study.” Journal of Palliative Medicine 12.12 (2009): 1101-104. Web.
Lee, B. A., and C. R. Farrell. “Buddy, Can You Spare A Dime?: Homelessness, Panhandling, and the Public.” Urban Affairs Review 38.3 (2003): 299-324. Web.

Loftus-Farren, Zoe. “Tent Cities: An Interim Solution to Homelessness and Aordable Housing Shortages in the United States.” California Law Review 99.4 (2011): 1037-1081 Web.

Mulhearn, Jude Kevin. “How I Survived as a Homeless Crack Addict.” Pacific Standard. N.p., 8 Aug. 2014. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.

Toth, Jennifer. The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels beneath New York City. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review, 1993. Print.

Wen, Chuck K., Pamela L. Hudak, and Stephen W. Hwang. “Homeless People’s Perceptions of Welcomeness and Unwelcomeness in Healthcare Encounters.” J GEN INTERN MED Journal of General Internal Medicine 22.7 (2007): 1011-017. Web.

Whitbeck, Les B., and Ronald L. Simons. “A Comparison of Adaptive Strategies and Patterns of Victimization Among Homeless Adolescents and Adults.” Sociology Department, Faculty Publications (1993): 135-52. Web.

[1] Baggett et al, pg. 1332
[2] Baggett et al, pg. 1330
[3] Baggett et al, pg. 1332
[4] Ensign and Panke, pg. 170
[5] Breuner et al, pg. 1071
[6] Breuner et al, pg. 1075
[7] Breuner et al, pg. 1075
[8] Ensign and Panke, pg. 168
[9] Hwang et al, pg. 792
[10] Hwang et al, pg. 796
[11] Ensign and Panke, pg. 170
[12] Ensign and Panke, pgs. 168-169
[13] Wen et al, pgs. 1011-1012
[14] Wen et al, pg. 1012
[15] Wen et al, pgs. 1013-1014
[16] Wen et al, pgs. 1017
[17] Kutner et al, pg 1101
[18] Kutner et al, pg. 1102
[19] Kutner et al, pg. 1105
[20] Kutner et al, pg. 1102
[21] Kutner et al, pg. 1103

Homelessness and Informality (Part 2)

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Many homeless people turn towards informal ways of making money, from panhandling to prostitution to drug dealing. These methods are referred to as informal economy, street economy, or underground economy. Regarding homeless people, informal economy is especially prevalent with homeless youth. They are an especially vulnerable part of the homeless population, making potential recruits to pimps, drug dealers, and other criminals. Regarding informal economy, much more data has been collected about homeless youth than homeless adults.

In general, homeless youth choose to work informal jobs for diverse reasons, but the main reasons are willingly rejecting mainstream society, employment barriers, and coercion. Some homeless youth become too antisocial for the formal sector because of an abusive upbringing or simply end up rejecting the conformity they associated with formal jobs. Some homeless youth have many barriers separating them from formal jobs, such as not having enough education, the prejudices against homeless people, or a criminal record. Others would wish to work formal jobs but cannot because they have mental illnesses or are physically disabled. Still others are coerced or initiated into informal and illegal businesses by predatory adults who take advantage of their vulnerability. All of the above reasons are intimately connected to their poor and violent upbringing.

Most homeless youth grow up in a less than ideal environment, as the Journal of Adolescence shows. Of all homeless youth researched, 62.6% suffered physical abuse, 78.8% suffered emotional abuse, 66.8% suffered emotional neglect, 67.6% suffered physical neglect, and 38.8% suffered from sexual abuse. 83.5% of all homeless youth had a history of homelessness, 92.5% went to a shelter at least once. Only 51.3% have a high school or higher education. Female homeless youth were generally much more likely to suffer childhood trauma than their male counterparts, especially sexual abuse, and were more likely to run away. However, more females visited shelters and were more likely to have a high school or higher education.[1] Males and females also tended to choose different informal jobs. Males were more likely to sell drugs while female were more likely to prostitute.[2]

Such traumatic upbringing increases homeless youths’ chances of becoming antisocial and rejecting mainstream society. Once they become antisocial, they are more likely to earn money in unwholesome ways. The University of Nebraska has a Social Learning Model, connecting abusive families, antisocial behavior, and deviant subsistence strategies to victimization.[3] Though it shows how victimization is the end of a chain of abuse and crime, it does illustrate how abusive families spur a youth to make money in informal and dangerous ways. Homeless youth that both had abusive backgrounds and antisocial behaviors were more likely to subside themselves in devious ways. An abusive past can easily socialize a homeless youth to become aggressive, expect aggression from others, and distrusting to authorities and other people. Not only does it make them reject and become less compatible with the formal sector but it also makes them more likely to be victimized on the streets.[4]

Homeless youth were also chose informal jobs because they simply could not access formal jobs. Homeless youth have a high likelihood of coming from families with little education and of getting little education themselves. “Twenty-eight percent reported that their fathers had not completed high school, 31% had fathers who had completed high school, 25% said their fathers had some college or training after high school, and 16% of the fathers were college graduates.” As for their mothers, “Twenty- five percent… had not completed high school, 36% had finished high school, 20% had some college or training beyond high school, and 18% had graduated from college.”[5] A lower education shuts homeless youth out of many formal job opportunities, especially well-paying ones. In light of this knowledge, it is understandable they would choose panhandling or drug dealing instead of working at McDonalds.

At times homeless youth go into informal work with hardly any choice at all. They are initiated or coerced in some way or another into criminal jobs. Homeless youth who are inevitably coerced into crime often have a history that alienates them from formal society, leaving them more vulnerable to predatory adults. Many homeless youth come from abusive and violent families and those same youth often become homeless by running away from their families. Their lack of education costs them a hefty toll on the job market, especially when they compete against “college kids” who have more education and better job skills. Their very status as being homeless is a detriment to them since employers are less likely to hire a homeless person. Incarceration, common among homeless youth, is yet another barrier to attaining formal jobs.[6]

Adults or their peers actively recruited homeless youth who were younger and less familiar with street economy. Already familiar with the street economy, they purposefully chose homeless youth because they were young, vulnerable, and easier to persuade. Recruiters often appeared near community organization and shelters, knowing they would find potential recruits. Once they initiated the youth, they trained them in the arts of the illegal trade, often playing the role of a mentor. The relationship is not really beneficent, since the mentor reaps almost all the profits from their apprentice’s dangerous labor.[7]

Recruiting homeless youth into informal economies even progresses in tiers. The older the homeless youth, the deeper they go into street economy, their jobs becoming more criminal and dangerous. Homeless youth run away at the mean age of 14 while they start stealing at the mean age of 13. At 14 they begin panhandling. At 15, they begin robbing by mugging people and breaking into houses. They also enter the illegal drug economy at this time. They start sex work at 16 and they start pimping at 17.[8]

Yet homeless youth also actively chose informal jobs for reasons beyond being coerced or having no other alternatives. One of the strongest positive factors is having strong social bonds with peers. A homeless youth such as Keith finds his family very protective, even though drug dealing is the family business.[9] Such youth held a strong bond for their unconventional society, with an intimate knowledge of street economy going as far back as childhood.[10] Surprisingly, not all homeless youth show distain from conventional values. Quite a number of them actually embrace conventional values such as hard work, education, and self-improvement, and want to one day become financially independent.[11] Sadly, those youth encounter the same barriers to the formal sector and the same stigmas their peers face.

The decision to work informally rather than formally does not only lie with homeless youth but also homeless adults. However, unlike homeless youth, homeless adults do informal jobs for simpler reasons, which revolve more around having barriers to formal jobs or perceiving themselves to have barriers to formal jobs. Homeless people who do panhandle, for example, see it as the better alternative to stealing or doing something illegal. Sometimes, homeless people panhandle simply to feed their addiction to illegal drugs. Those who do illegal work, such as drug dealing, are either slaves to their addiction or otherwise are willing to risk their lives for reasons such as money or already being in crime for a long time.

The average panhandler has a 48% chance of being black, 83% chance of being male, and 70% chance of being 40 to 59 years old. He has limited education, with only 39% chance of having a high school deploma and 21% chance of having some college education. He is also frequently disabled, with the chances at 62%. 94% of the time he will spend his money to buy food just to survive while 44% of the time he will buy drugs or alcohol. He has a small but significant chance of being an alcoholic at 25% and addicted to drugs at 32%. 60% of the time he panhandles he makes at most $25 a day.[12] He will live in a central city 82% of the time. Citizens are more likely to see him in large cities and suburbs than in areas further away. “Being asked for money is most common for residents of large cities and their suburbs (76.5%), with declining proportions affected in small cities (60.6%), towns (50.9%), and rural areas (41.4%).”[13]

The stereotype of a panhandler as a lazy moocher has some truth to it but not by much. Still, citizens feel accosted and resentful at panhandlers and governments try to rid of them in ways that are not too obviously dehumanizing. Citizens perceive panhandling as a violation of work ethic, thinking of them as just trying to get cheap money for beer.[14] In reality, panhandling is a difficult and dangerous line of work. Among homeless people, panhandlers are more likely to sleep outdoors, stay hungry, and be victimized on the streets.[15] Since panhandling is such a dangerous job with hardly any benefits, one wonders why people bother doing it.

Frequently, panhandlers are men who lost their jobs not too long ago or are affected with a serious illness.[16] Their recent loss of employment may mean they lack experience with informal economy and turn to panhandling as the first way to deal with their new situation. With serious illness they cannot or perceive they cannot take formal jobs anymore. The research letter by MD-PhD student Bose and Assistant Professor Medicine Hwang, supports this idea. In their study, 70% of panhandlers stated they would prefer a minimum-wage job to gain a steady income and get off the streets. However, the same panhandlers felt they could not handle conventional jobs because of mental illnesses, physical disabilities, and the lack of necessary skills.[17]

Other homeless people turn to drug dealing to sustain themselves. Their motives are usually to feed their addictions. As with other drug users, their life is consumed by the addiction to the point where getting the next high becomes all that matters. Jude, a former crack addict, describes the menial ways she supported her addiction and how she eventually left it. Originally, she dealt crack to feed her addiction. When she charged for illegally using drugs, she violated her bail conditions. Evading police, she robbed a heroin dealer and used the cash to take an Amtrack train to L.A.[18] In L.A., she sold plasma from her blood for $35 and was so desperate she was willing to sell a kidney. In other instances, she would collect aluminum and plastic cans for nine hours and even stole her sisters money at one point to avoid getting dope sick.[19]

Eventually, she hit a point where her desperation to survive trumped her desperation for crack. In her case it was the only other motivation that could tear her away from her first one: her drug addiction. She returned to her family and began the rocky road to recovery, which involved detox and psychotherapy. She slipped back into her addiction for a brief time but later went to rehab.[20] It may seem simplistic, but drug addiction is so powerful and destructive that it can become the sole reason a homeless person works informal jobs. Drug addictions can easily lead to work in the drug trade, or the reverse, the homeless person was already involved in drugs and got high off their own supply. In the latter case, their motivations devolve into feeding their own addiction. Having a drug addiction makes it even harder for a homeless person to access a formal job, perpetuating their addiction further like a vicious cycle.

[1] Gwadz et al, pg. 363
[2] Whitceck and Simons, pg. 143-144
[3] Whitbeck and Simons, pgs. 139 and 147
[4] Whitceck and Simons, pg. 139
[5] Whitceck and Simons, pg. 140
[6] Gwadz et al, pgs. 368-370
[7] Gwadz et al, pg. 372
[8] Gwadz et al, pg. 365
[9] Gwadz et al, pg. 366
[10] Gwadz et al, pg. 368
[11] Gwadz et al, pg. 367
[12] Knight, pg. 5
[13] Lee and Farrell, pg. 309
[14] Lee and Farrell, pg. 300
[15] Lee and Farrell, pg. 304
[16] Lee and Farrell, pg. 304
[17] Bose and Hwang, pg. 478
[18] Mulhearn, pgs. 1-2
[19] Mulhearn, pgs. 2-4
[20] Mulhearn, pg. 5
[21] Baggett et al, pg. 1332

Homelessness and Informality (Part 1)

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When we think of informality we often think of developing countries, a world far removed from us in the United States brimming with widespread poverty and crime. Our stereotype of informality does have a ring of truth to it. Developing countries tend to be impoverished with small formal economies, so its people need to sustain themselves in other ways such as underground economies or informal housing. However, the United States also has a vast network of informality and just has a huge wealth disparity there are millions in poverty who rely on informality to survive.

Homeless people, like informality, are mostly invisible to us middle class Americans, partly because they rely on informality so much themselves. Homeless people are a major part of an informal underworld, one of the many types of people who cannot access the formal sector to survive. I see this reality every Monday and Thursday when I leave return home from class. The Columbus Circle area is one of the most opulent and formal areas in all New York City, sporting the Trump Hotel and Time Warner Center Mall, yet I see no less than three homeless people on the street. They are almost always sleeping huddled on a street corner, wrapped in a thick sleeping bag, and sometimes huddled in pairs. They always sleep beside their backpacks and large carts, which probably contain everything they own.

Homeless people use informality in three major ways. First, they live in informal housing such as tent cities, colonias, and underground communities. Second, they earn money in the informal economy or street economy through such means as panhandling, prostitution, drug dealing, and selling stolen objects. It is not uncommon for homeless people to work both formal and informal jobs to support themselves. Third, they seek medical treatment through informal medicine such as local healing communities, unorthodox medicine like herbalism, and non-profit groups such as volunteer nurses and church groups providing free services.

However, I do not only wish to write a sympathetic essay about how much poverty and suffering homeless people endure. Researchers, professors, journalists, and graduate students have done so countless times before me. As important as it is to empathize with homeless people empathy by itself does not give a lot of insight into why people become homeless and what to do about. Furthermore, empathy by itself cannot examine the choices homeless people make in their lives. Why do homeless people willingly choose the informal sector? Why do homeless people set up tents in the woods instead of going to a shelter? Why do homeless people choose to panhandle or prostitute instead of getting a “normal” job? Why do homeless people take herbs or homeopathy instead of going to the hospital?

Homeless people, like all of us, make many critical decisions in their lives such as where to live, how to make money, and how to treat themselves when they get sick. Though they act for many different reasons they choose the informal sector for three overarching reasons. Homeless people desire to claim some measure of control over their lives in a situation that easily makes even the most stalwart person feel powerless. Rather than submitting to formal beuracracies such as a homeless shelter or become a low-level employee in a corporation like McDonald’s, they can use their own power to better themselves and form a strong community in the process. They can build houses in colonias, for example, or form a community to provide themselves with medicines they otherwise could not get.

Homeless people also desire a means to escape their situation and the society that largly ignores or despises them. By living in tent cities or underground communities, homeless people choose to fall off the grid of the formal sector. In the process they protect themselves from both the cruel streets and the ravages of law enforcement. It is a way to get out of being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Homeless youth in particular are more idealistic in this regard, rejecting mainstream society more out of principle. By rejecting formal medicine for herbs, meditation, and other “New Age” treatment, they live by an alternative or counterculture lifestyle.

A final but very pressing reason is that homeless people have no other choice. Some homeless people are too sick and have mental illnesses and drug addictions preventing them from getting a formal job. They could have a jail record that bars them from the formal sector. Even being homeless itself marks them for prejudice. Homeless youth go into drug dealing or prostitution because adult criminals took advantage of their vulnerability and coerced them into joining illegal businesses. Homeless adults addicted to drugs flee underground to avoid arrest from the police. Whether homeless people willingly try to take control of their lives or are passively reacting to pressures against them, they are measures taken to survive in a desperate situation and dangerous environments.


Homeless people frequently live in some informal housing or another. Some live in tents, either alone or in communities known as tent cities or colonias. Others live in underground communities, gaining the name of “mole people”. The homeless people who prefer to live in tent cities do so for many different reasons but the main motives are security, escape, and independence. Many homeless people opt out of living in a shelter or the streets because of the violence that often occurs in both. Others still see the tent city or colonia an opportunity for independence, a way of providing for themselves by building their own communities and infrastructure without depending on shelters or welfare. Others escape underground to flee from the police or from family to feed their drug addictions. Frequently, as in the case of tent cities and colonias, homeless people find a strong community of fellow human beings, countering the isolation and invisibility homelessness and extreme poverty bring.

For example, those in Harlem live in tent cities to avoid the violence frequent in homeless shelters, a common reason for many who are homeless.[1] Others in Harlem live in tent cities out of necessity. They would prefer to live in abandoned buildings or empty apartments and while 24,000 apartments exist in standing buildings in New York City, they are kept empty by developers because of real estate prices.[2]

Homeless people do not have an easy life, whether they live in a shelter or in informal housing. Why do they choose informal housing over the shelter and other places? Why do they leave the formal sector to live under the radar in a first world underworld? Homeless people reject the formal shelter for many different reasons, but ultimately it mostly has to do with security and escape. Some see the shelters as disorderly and violent. During my second day volunteering at Rescue Mission, I talked to a volunteer who used to work at other shelters. He said they were poor places to live, had poor people, and had violent homeless people. They were so violent homeless people would even murder the people who worked at the shelter.

Some homeless people prefer living in abandoned buildings or empty apartments but those places are denied them. Living in abandoned buildings is a crime and developers forbid homeless people from living in empty apartments. Abandoned buildings tend to be in blighted areas where peace is no certainty. All sorts of other people such as criminals or drug addicts may occupy abandoned buildings.”You never know who’s going to come into one of those buildings,” the police officer Lloyd said in a journalist’s interview.[3] Amanda Erickson from Business Insider explains that banks simply do not want to pay property tax bills on abandoned apartments while the city wants to use private developers to buy and refurbish abandoned buildings.[4]

Though informal dwellings such as tent cities located in the fringes of society, even considered blight by citizens and developers as slums once were, they have existed for a long time. For example, the Hoboken shanty houses, located between New Jersey and Union City have about fifty people in them who have been around for around twenty years. [5] Meanwhile colonias in Texas have existed since 1970 and have grown since, interacting with the government and city developers in the formal sector throughout its development.[6]

Tent cities provide some benefits to the people who live in them. Though infrastructure in tent cities such as showers, heating, and electricity are worse than those in formal houses they are relatively cheap. Tent cities in California cost at most $60 per person per month while housing one homeless person in a shelter costs $1,634 per month.[7] Homeless people who live in tent cities enjoy a level of autonomy, stability, and security they may not if they went to a violent shelter or remained on the streets.[8] They are also protected from many other hills from living in the streets. Housing codes, zoning laws, and local ordinances plagued inner cities since World War II, breaking down less affluent communities, sinking them into deeper poverty while isolating them from basic needs such as hospitals and grocery stores with healthy food.

Generally, tent cities exist in the middle of the formal-informal spectrum, the most formal being conventional housing and homeless shelters, the least formal being nomadic and underground communities. Depending on the specific town and state, some tent cities receive support from government and churches, a place where the informal and formal sectors meet[9], while others are destroyed, banishing the people who live in them further from society. Anti-camping ordinances are most severe where tent cities can potentially cross into the formal sector, such as in commercial, industrial, or recreational zones.[10] Developers, both government and private, see the tent cities as blights, hazards, and nuisances similar to the way they regarded slums in the inner city in the first half of the 20th century.

Colonias are the close relative of tent cities, a network of informal housing that mostly exists in Texas and Arizona near the Mexican border. Since at least 1970, homeless people and other people struggling to make a living have lived in colonias as a king of self-help settlements. According to the Urban Studies journal, people live in colonias for reasons especially relevant to real estate and employment. Their low incomes and poor credit rating make it hard for them to cross into formal financing while the depressed housing market makes it hard for even people with decent incomes to get a home.[11]

Unlike tent cities, colonias have a more complicated evolution and a involved relationship with the formal sector. Originally colonias started as shacks without any basic services, but over time they developed into a more cohesive community as people built their own houses with a self-help ethos. Also unlike tent cities, colonias offer a modest capacity for upward mobility. Since 1970, the state governments of Texas and Arizona became involved with the colonias. Over time the informal and formal sectors formed a mutual relationship of sorts, aiding the colonia residents with land-titles and infrastructure regulation.[12] As colonia houses grew larger and more interconnected, focus shifted away from building larger houses to internal repairs.[13]

Government assistance to colonias and self-help produced at least a few good results. By 2002, all ten colonias in Starr County, Texas had basic utility services such as water, electricity, and septic systems. By 2010, half of all people living in the largest colonia populations had water, sewage, and paving infrastructure.[14] Among the colonia-dwellers in Starr County, 72% of respondents made major home improvements from 2002 to 2011. “32% of respondents having remodeled one or more rooms, 26% and 25% completing flooring and roofing improvements, and between 15% and 18% making improvements to the garden or parking area.”[15] Government assistance of colonias shows that, more than with tent cities, the formal sector shares a symbiotic relationship of sorts with the informal center. Colonias benefit from the government’s support while the government saves a lot of money it would have otherwise spent on homeless shelters and temporary and self-help housing.

Why did colonias make such an improvement and what can it teach us about improving tent cities? One reason lies with the housing consolidation process. Total property values increased more than 30%, which made colonia people richer and had more money to spend on improving their infrastructure.[16] Furthermore, by 2002 most colonias were already finished with their “building-out” stage. With the basic housing numbers and arrangements settled on in the broad sense, they could now focus on improving the infrastructures in their houses and communities.[17]

Sadly, tent cities do not have the same benefits as their colonia counterparts. For one thing, there is the simple fact that they are tents. A tent can almost never provide the same lasting security as a house. Furthermore, people cannot build as lasting of an infrastructure with tents than if they used houses. These barriers prevent tent cities from contacting the formal sector or crossing into it as effectively as a colonia can. In turn, the formal sector such as city governments and private are less likely to respect tent cities as legitimate communities, let alone the right to the city of the people living in them, and instead see them as a pernicious blight in the city that needs to be eliminated. Texas has an organization unique to the state called the Economically Distressed Areas Program, which provides distressed citizens with water planning among other services.[18] Since most colonias are in Texas or near the Mexican border, Texas government can easily aid them.

At times informal housing can manifest itself in extreme ways. If there existed a line with complete formality on one end and complete informality on the other, tent cities would be somewhere in the middle while colonias would be closer to formality. Underground communities are near the end of extreme informality. Here, the “housing” is usually a deep network of subway and sewage tunnels underneath major cities like New York and Las Vegas. The people who live deep underground are called “mole people” and are invisible even to many of the homeless. They are the outcasts of the outcasts.

Underground homeless people do not have any infrastructure and have not even the benefits of tent cities and colonias. With no money or access to any food stores they must hunt their food themselves, hunting down rats, or “track rabbits” as they are called, and cooking them over a campfire.[19] Though underground people seem very different from the rest of the homeless population they are similar to other homeless people who choose to live in informal housing. They go underground to escape the cruel streets where crime menaces on one end and the police punish them in another. Some simply escape from the law to abuse drugs in peace. Others escape society out of “shame” of their poverty.[20]

If homelessness is a condition the portrait of the underground person is homelessness taken to its extreme. Among underground people, 95% of them are men ages twenty to forty-five while 80% of them mentally ill or chemically dependent.[21] Though an underground person can be very aggressive, especially to police, they are usually slow and wary due to fatigue and drugs.[22] The police see underground people as so far gone from formal society they are completely irretrievable.[23]

Nevertheless, attempts were made to rehabilitate underground people. According to Officer Romero, as recorded by the author, Jennifer Toth, underground people were first reported in the seventies. By 1989, about 5,000 people lived in the Bowery subway tunnels. From 1990 to 1991, a huge campaign in New York City ejected a total of 11,000 underground people and put them in shelters.[24] Such measures are drastic but they are potentially life-saving. The average underground person’s lifespan is only three to five years. An underground person’s life is fraught with malnourishment, and danger of drug overdose and disastrous subway accidents. A host of diseases pose a threat underground, the most notorious being AIDS, tuberculosis, and pneumonia.[25]

Life underground is not complete isolation. Underground people form small but extremely tight communities where everyone knows each other and watches each other’s back. Children adapt better than adults underground, even to the point where they find crowds of people frightening. However, underground people on average disapprove of families because they do not want children to be in an environment where mortality rate underground is so high, and so they notify the family to police in spite of police brutality being worse underground than aboveground.[26]

The Rotunda Community, located near the Hudson River, is a homeless community with a family-like structure. Workers of the Parks Department hold an unspoken agreement with the community; allowing them to live in the area as long as they do not do drugs or alcohol in public. The Rotunda Community share food and clothing amongst themselves, send their sick to the hospital, and are ready to receive them when they come out. They do not bond with each other by sharing each other’s pasts because of the trauma in them. Instead, they connect by sharing the best knowledge of how to survive today.

In spite of the deep bonds they share with each other, there is a deep underlying pessimism. Rarely do any of the people talk or even think about the past and future because they see no point in it. They struggle just to live day-to-day, their society giving them no permanent society. The longer they live in isolation from formal society, the deeper they grow underground, the more isolated they become, the harder it becomes for them to come back to the society aboveground.[27]

[1] Case, pg. 1
[2] Case, pg. 2
[3] Kovner, pg. 2
[4] Erickson, pgs. 2 and 3
[5] “Shantytown In Hoboken Hills Houses Nearly 50 Homeless People.”, pgs. 1-2
[6] Durst and Ward, pg. 2146
[7] Loftus-Farren, pg. 1041
[8] Loftus-Farren, pgs. 1042 and 1051
[9] Loftus-Farren, pg. 1046
[10]Loftus-Farren, pg. 1065
[11] Durst and Ward, pg. 2147
[12] Durst and Ward, pg. 2146
[13] Durst and Ward, pg. 2155
[14] Durst and Ward, pg. 2145
[15] Durst and Ward, pg. 2149
[16] Durst and Ward, pg. 2150
[17] Durst and Ward, pg. 2151
[18] “Economically Distressed Areas Program (EDAP).”
[19] Toth, pg. 29
[20] Toth, pg. 38
[21] Toth, pg. 63
[22] Toth, pg. 57
[23] Toth, pg. 40
[24] Toth, pgs. 51-52
[25] Toth, pg. 41
[26] Toth, pg. 84
[27] Toth, pgs. 91-94