Document Type

Honors Paper


Jeff Cole

Publication Date



Homelessness in the United States has been widely researched in the social sciences. Only within the last 20 years have ethnographic studies focused on street kids, a youth subculture. Some of this work has emphasized the transience of street kid lifeways and problematized the street kid lifestyle, an approach that has rendered street kids as victims. More recently, social scientists have refocused their analytic lens on the ways that street kids are agents of their own actions and understood only within the context of past events that shaped decisions to live on the street. This thesis aligns with the latter body of research and focuses specifically on street kid subculture in Portland, Oregon. I argue that a nomadic lifestyle is the cornerstone of street kid ethos and a meaningful site for framing a general disenchantment with mainstream American culture. Despite this disenchantment, I argue that street kid lifeways are better regarded as a subculture rather than a counterculture. To this end, I explore the ways that street kid identity is shaped by facets of their nomadic and communal lifestyle, dependent on the American mainstream, and ultimately impermanent. All data was collected during summer 2012 in Portland, Oregon through participant observation and interviews.



The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.