Gutter punk

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A group of gutter punks in New Orleans, Louisiana, in May 2002.

A gutter punk is a homeless or transient individual who displays a variety of specific lifestyle traits and characteristics that often, but not always, are associated with the punk subculture.[1][2] Attributes may include unkempt dreadlocks, nose rings, mohawk hairstyles and tattooed faces.[3] Gutter punks are sometimes referred to as "oogles,"[4] traveler kids, and hobos.[2] Some self-identified gutter punks may distinguish themselves from "crusties" or "oogles" and vice versa.[5] The term 'Oogle' was used as an antonym of gutter-punk [crusty, traveller, et al] and is now used as both an antonym and synonym. [6]


The "most important" aspect of gutter punks is that "they ride freight trains"[2] as transients, but they may also travel by hitchhiking.[1][2][7] The number of gutter punks that travel to various U.S. cities numbers is in the thousands, and they often congregate in major U.S. cities.[7] Some may squat in abandoned buildings,[7] such as C-Squat.[2]

When traveling, gutter punks run the risk of being trapped inside box cars, often with dangerous cargo.[2] Four gutter punks died when a box car with I-beams in it suddenly stopped, and the cargo shifted.[2] Gutter punks often tag the cars they ride in to let others know where they have been and where they are going.[2] Common tags include dates and initials with NBD or EBD for northbound or eastbound, or an arrow with dual lines representing train tracks across it.[2]


Gutter punks are often voluntarily unemployed and may acquire income by panhandling, sometimes holding signs requesting spare change.[2][4][7] Harvesting food is a popular way for gutter punks to earn money, such as collecting blueberries in Maine or sugar beets in Minnesota.[2] Gutter punks may also work odd jobs or other temporary work.[2]

Popular food includes non-perishable items such as Spam, beans, ramen, and Chef Boyardee.[2] Gutter punks may also collect food stamps.[2] One gutter punk who traveled with a Bunsen burner and frying pan used his food stamps to "cook steaks and drink wine under a bridge all day" and "act fancy" with his friends.[2]

Gutter punks often travel with dogs for safety and companionship.[2] Getting the dogs onto the trains is often a challenge, however.[2]

Drugs and alcohol[edit]

Some gutter punks may have problems with drugs and alcohol, including drug addiction and alcoholism, and some may be addicted to hard drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine.[3] One panhandling gutter punk said that he planned to use the $20 he earned on a concert ticket, "if he doesn't spend it on beer first."[2]

Cities of congregation[edit]

Cities where gutter punks may congregate include the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco, California, Berkeley, California, Portland, Oregon, New Orleans, Louisiana, East Village, Manhattan and Williamsburg, Brooklyn in New York City, Ocean Beach, California among others.[3][5][8][9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Goetz, Peter (November 21, 2000). "Ex Gutter Punk' Tells All". The Daily Californian. Retrieved May 5, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Adams, Jack (25 July – 7 August 2014). "Angry, Young and Poor". Spare Change News. 
  3. ^ a b c Glionna, John M. (29 My 2007). "There's not a lot of love in the Haight". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 15, 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ a b Bentley, Jules (September 2012). "Everyone Hates the Oogles: Exploring the Animosity Towards New Orleans' Panhandling Punks". Antigravity. Retrieved May 5, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Chapman, Ben; Hays, Elizabeth (July 14, 2009). "Punks invade Williamsburg as heroin-addicted hobos set up shop in trendy Brooklyn neighborhood". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 5, 2014. 
  6. ^ "'Oogle' on Urban Dictionary". Urban Dictionary. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c d Hauser, Alisa (May 21, 2013). "Traveling 'Gutter Punk' Homeless Back in City". DNA Info Chicago. Retrieved May 5, 2014. 
  8. ^ Morris, Alex (June 23, 2008). "Punk Like Them". New York. Retrieved May 5, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Are Gutter Punk Youth Satisfied with Homeless Services in Berkeley, California?" California State University. 128 pages.

Further reading[edit]