Noe Valley Voice December-January 1999-2000

Would Street Kids Make Use of Church Refuge?

By Kathryn Guta

With eyebrows shaved like dots and dashes, and earlobes pierced with rings and spools, "Darkstar" has the look of a feisty street kid who can take care of himself. Still, he might decide to check in to an overnight shelter on Church Street in Noe Valley -- if he really needed to eat and to rest.

"Right now I live in my van," he said on a recent Friday evening while hanging out near the Eureka Valley Recreation Center on Collingwood Street in the Castro.

"Housing is too expensive. But I love the city and want to stay. I've tried getting jobs, but no one will hire me, even though I went to college for a year. That's why kids become prostitutes, because there is nothing else available to us."

Darkstar, 21, is one of the estimated 2,000 young homeless people in the city being targeted by the Metropolitan Community Church (see story, page 1). A dozen of them were gathered at the community center, laughing, razzing one another, trading cigarettes. Most said they thought the church's proposed shelter in Noe Valley was a good idea.

"I will definitely use the shelter rather than sleep out on the street," said 20-year-old Will Dirtpirate.

Dirtpirate said he manages to "couch-trip" at the homes of friends about 75 percent of the time. But when he's forced to spend the night outdoors, "I don't go to sleep, because I'm too afraid."

"Star," a 19-year-old who wears a hooded sweatshirt decorated with bottle-cap art, said she became homeless at 13, when her mother threw her out of the house "for personal reasons." She admits that life is sometimes rough on the streets, but she prizes her independence.

"I would go to the shelter if it were cold or rainy. Otherwise, I'd rather stay outside," she said.

Like Star, John Mire, a native of Michigan (who often goes by "Greyhound"), does not enjoy the "locked-down" feeling of a shelter. "I want to get up and go to the corner store when I want to," he said.

Mire, 21, also said that "homeless shelters can contribute to kids not taking responsibility for their own lives." But he still thinks a gay youth shelter is needed.

Allin Morgan, 19, said he just wished the church's homeless shelter was located in the Castro, where most of the street kids hang out.

But until that happens, they'll take anything they can get.