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 "crustys"[4] traveler kids, and hobos.[2] Some self-identified gutter punks may distinguish themselves from "crusties" or "travellers" and vice versa.[5] The term 'Oogle' means a gutter punk that is faking it, a crusty with money [crusty, traveller, et al] and is now used as both an antonym and synonym.


The "most important" aspect of gutter punks is that they are homeless. Many travel by alternative means of transportation such as riding freight trains or hitch-hiking.[1][2][6] 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.[6] Some may squat in abandoned buildings,[6] 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][6] 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 pasta.[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, crack cocaine and crystal methamphetamine.[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, Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon, New Orleans, Louisiana, East Village, Manhattan and Williamsburg, Brooklyn in New York City and the Ocean Beach area of San Diego, California, among others.[3][5][7][8]

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 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. ^ a b c d Hauser, Alisa (May 21, 2013). "Traveling 'Gutter Punk' Homeless Back in City". DNA Info Chicago. Retrieved May 5, 2014. 
  7. ^ Morris, Alex (June 23, 2008). "Punk Like Them". New York. Retrieved May 5, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Are Gutter Punk Youth Satisfied with Homeless Services in Berkeley, California?" California State University. 128 pages.

Further reading[edit]