A CHANCE TO TELL THEIR STORIES
by Robyn Lee
Along with spring flowers and migratory birds, the change in seasons brings homeless youths back to the streets of Toronto and Montreal from temperate Vancouver. Unlike the majority of homeless adults, these youths live on the streets because they choose to. They will tell you that homelessness is their chosen lifestyle. They say it appeals to them. However, the sight of them loitering, panhandling, "squeegeeing," and sleeping in public spaces does not appeal to the Canadian public. Pressure is already being put upon city officials in Vancouver to come up with a way to clear these kids off the streets, and out of the public eye before the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
So what exactly is it about them that challenges our tolerance? To begin with, their physical appearance offends us: Many of these kids are punks, which means they are dirty, they have multiple face and body tattoos and piercings, their speech can be abrasive, and their behaviour can be objectionable. There is little place in mainstream society for these misfits. No one will hire punks, let alone rent to them. But we need to "read" what their appearance says about them, because outer appearance in subcultures is always highly significant. Punk style is loaded with messages against societal norms, as are their gestures and speech. They intentionally offend.