Chris Arnade Photography

The Culture of Street Addicts


DeShawn was raped by her father and her father’s friends from the age of nine till she ran away at eleven.

When Takeesha was thirteen her mother brought her to the street corner to join her as a prostitute. Takeesha was valuable “bait”.

Daphne was born in a prison hospital. Her fondest memory of childhood is having her hair braided on visiting days.

All three now work in Hunts Point as prostitutes. All three are homeless. All three are addicted to illegal drugs.

Most of the addicts in Hunts Point have come from situations not dissimilar to where they are now. They are the children of street addicts.

There is a culture of street addiction. There are street families, there are relationships and relationship norms, there are sexual divisions, there is street etiquette, and there are complex gender structures.

The culture of street addicts is just very different from what most of us consider normal.  

The culture we inherit provides us with the toolboxes we use to solve problems.

imageThe addict’s toolbox is different.

They have some tools that most of us don’t have. They can make wonderful meals from a prison vending machine. They can turn trash into money. They can fashion weapons out of most anything. They can survive and sleep where few of us could.

They don’t have many tools that help them get clean.

Deshawn, Takeesha, and Daphne have choices. They could leave Hunts Point, get a college degree, and then a professional job.

That path, considered normal by most of us, is part of the mythology of addicts. As Déjà said, “I want the white picket fence, the Tupperware parties, the husband and kids. Dream? That’s a fairy tale not a dream.”

Realistically for an addict in Hunts Point, living as a clean person means leaving the culture they know.

It is effectively an act of immigration.

More on Addiction: Faces of Addiction

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