The New Homeless: Gen Y Wayfarers in OKC

Young Female Vagabond Traveling and Broke
The panhandler is stylin’. Call your mother.

I got to get out of this town.
Man I got to get out of this pain.
Man I got to get out of this town,
out of this town, and out of LA…

– From Beth Hart and Man I Gotta Get Out Of This Town

Meet the new homeless. A new generation of America’s jobless vagabonds: Generation Y. They’re unemployed, traveling and broke. Smiling sometimes, too.

I remember when the only panhandlers you saw in Oklahoma City were war veterans. These days they’re mostly 20-somethings donning guitars and cardboard signs. They drift along with dogs. I see them on a regular basis at the corner of Classen Boulevard at Northwest Expressway or NW 23rd Street. Most of them seem more closely associated with the backpack-across-Europe variety of wayfarer, but some of them are clearly strung out. Not good. 

I thought these five made for a great picture with the fall colors and Oklahoma State Capitol in the background. The guy in the plaid was playing the violin. They should just walk on down to The Blue Door.

Homeless young people near the Oklahoma Capitol.

 That’s a mighty fine dog you have there, sir. And, that bandana, so stylish.

oung people panhandling
Buddy, until you’ve survived an ice-pocalypse, hail-pocalypse, snow-pocalypse, drought-pocalypse and three earthquakes in two days, you have not earned the right to hold that sign.

Until today, it never occurred to me that the only panhandler I can ever remember seeing in Oklahoma City who looked like he might be a Gen Xer was a guy I saw two Christmases ago. He was wearing a Jiffy Lube uniform and standing outside the Belle Isle Wal-Mart with a sign that said, “I have no money to buy my daughter a Christmas present.”

Comments

  1. Yogi♪♪♪ says

    You know in downtown Tulsa we still have the old school homeless guys. I hadn’t seen the newer generation except for some that seem to have mental problems.

    I’ve seen the younger generation homelessin Austin. I walked seven miles one way from my hotel to the Univ of Texas campus scooping of geocaches on the way. At the campus a young lady came up and asked for $5 for bus money. I asked where she was going and she told me a place that was right near where I was staying. I told that I just walked from there. She said I was crazy. I said I don’t know, anybody asks me for $5 is crazy too. She laughed, I gave her $5. So I guess she rode and I walked. Loved it.

  2. jennifer says

    @FRIAR – Thanks for sending this link. I just read it. Shades of Jim Morrison.

    Something I’ve never written about is the portion of Generation Y completely obsessed with Boomer nostalgia; drugs and all.

  3. jennifer says

    @ANDI – I’m glad it’s not just me. (Regarding the dogs.) (And bandanas.) I wonder about their choices, too. And, their MOTHERS!!!

    @ROSE BYRD – Thanks, Rose. I appreciate you appreciating the painstaking prep. =) Photography is rarely an accident, even if it’s candid and unexpected. Does that make sense?

  4. Andi says

    Working in San Francisco, I see a LARGE amount of homeless, and I too have seen a lot of younger vagabonds these days. In fact three jumped on BART yesterday when I was riding it home – with their two dogs, I often see them with dogs, in fact the majority of time they have dogs and bandanas. I regularly wonder about their choices – it is very scary to me, I would not have been able to do what they do at their age!

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