“People who are homeless are not social inadequates. They are people without homes.” -Sheila McKechnie
Agency is the capacity for human beings to make choices and act in the world. Free will, according to Wikipedia is “putative ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints. Do Finkelstein’s informants have agency? I believe they do have agency, just because they do not have one specific place to call home, does not mean they are not capable of making choices and imposing those choices on the world. As stated in the quote about, just because they are without a home does not mean they are social inadequate. The majority of these youth came from volatile home and family environments and made the choice to leave. Others were desperate for ‘freedom’. These young people were able to make the decision to leave home for the search of something better, but without the means to provide better for themselves – they end up on the streets. As discussed in the text, adolescence is a time of “emerging independence” (p. 7), this is when kids are starting to take control of their life choices, so saying these kids have no agency is absurd. Chapter four of this text focuses heavily in on the homeless youth community and “family”. In order to survive, the street kids that are new to the streets must learn the “ropes” of life on the streets. The best way of doing that is by socializing with the members of the community/”family” that are already familiar with the ways of survival. The new street kids become encultured to the street life society’s culture. They learn from other street kids how to survive and fit in the street kid community/”family”.
The street kids bond on a personal level and become “family” mainly because of their shared traumatic experiences. Be that of volatile home environments or family lives, or other traumatic life experiences. Other street kids that left home in search of freedom and independence bonded and became family because of their shared experiences in life, on the road and their initial pulling away from a “dull existence” (p. 37). The kids teach each other skills, like panhandling and train hopping, to take care of each other. Their relationships are much more intense than those relationships of a typical adolescent, but on the same hand they are also much shorter lived. The street kids also have a much larger social network due to their nomadic lifestyle. They often know several street kids where ever they may travel to. A benefit of this is having that sense of “family” when they arrive to a new place. The street kid community operates as a family not only by enculturating new street kids but by watching out for each other and providing help and support. They recognize that a family is a group of people who take care of each other, make sure each other is ok and that everyone has food to eat. Because the street kid community/”family” is so close knit, they often know what is going on with one another even if they are on the other side of the country. They help street kids out that are struggling. They all communicate and know each other. The communication spreads quickly as well, if something happened to someone on the East Coast, the street kids on the West Coast would know about it in a few days – much like news travels through a typical family. Some would question the validity of these relationships, but these fictive kinships take on the role of a family that these youths may not have ever known. In short, they have each other’s backs and in most cases, have been more like family than their real families were. In some cases, these kids were tossed out of their homes, in which they were typically abused and neglected, so the kids on the street accepting them and taking care of them, may very well be the first time they’ve had someone looking out for them.
A lot of these kids come to the street looking for freedom; freedom from abuse, freedom from...
References: Finkelstein, M. (2005). With no direction home: homeless youth on the road and in the streets. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub Co.
A., W, E., H, & Walrath, D. (2007). Cultural anthropology: the human challenge. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub Co.
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