Jana Birchum, Photo & Video

Street Kids

Another community which has fascinated me is the traveling gutter punks, or street kids, who populate The Drag, the area across the street from the University of Texas campus. These kids were like the opposite of those across the street: they rarely worked, except to sell drugs; had no home by choice, living on the streets or squatting in abandoned buildings; travelled extensively, hitchhiking or hopping trains; and created a small, insular culture in which freedom was the only real value. They often died young.


Some of my favorite kids were Matt, Blue and Lugnut, brothers in arms on the cold cold streets.


When you clothes say it all.


Part of the mythos was "crust", or the film that covers you when you don't bathe for days, weeks and months at a time. The kids claimed that crust created an immunity to disease, and was the natural state of human beings. Thus the nickname they had for themselves, "Crusties".

Spare change

The kids were both mischievous and very direct. They hustled for a living, but they had a great sense of humor.

Hair Up

The mohawk was an important style statement, one that has lived on through the years and generations.


Life was lived on the street as if it was a living room. The Drag was, and still is, in fact the home for many of the kids. Dog companions are also a major component of the scene.


A group of girls gathered to do each other's hair and in general have girl time in the bathroom of a local mall.

In Dumpster

Shopping in the local dumpster.


The kids regularly ate the discarded food from restaurants and convenience stores.


One day after an appendectomy, John found himself recovering on the street.


Matt building a shelter out of tree limbs beside an urban creek.


An inside-the-city-limits campsite.

Punk Wedding

It was interesting how the kids defied and embodied traditional culture. Here the bride throws the bouquet following a punk wedding.

Punk Show

Naturally, punk music was a central focus of the social scene.


Kids try to help a friend who has passed out in an alley.

Passed Out

Passed out in the trash of an alley.


Arrests were very common, for loitering, selling drugs, theft, and all kinds of minor infractions.

In Jail

Julie, 17, spends her first night in jail.


The kids crash out waiting for a train.


Lugnut and his dog hitch a ride to the next town.