Life on the streets: a guide to the new urban tribes

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The Independent Online

Who are they? The most famous graffiti artist is New York-born Futura 2000. Where are they? A wall near you. All cities sport graffiti, sink estates and university towns especially. How many? According to a Tidy Britain Group survey last year, Sheffield has most, while central London is virtually graffiti-free. Preventive action? Not always: in Camden, London, organised graffiti is positively encouraged, with 10 billboards erected for the purpose. Winners and losers? Removing graffiti in Kingsmead shopping centre, Farnborough, costs pounds 25,000 a year. But isn't Futura an artist, not a thug?


Who are they? More men than women are winos, but the proportion of alcoholics who are female rose from 22 per cent in 1972 to 36 per cent in 1991. Most homeless drinkers are white men in their 50s. Where are they? Mainly London: Waterloo, Camden, the South Bank and Kentish Town. Also Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow. How many? Hard to say. Winos have a habit of walking. Preventive action? There are 150 rehabilitation houses which wean winos off the bottle, eg Manchester's Bennett House. Winners and losers? Both winos and punters win if alcoholics are rehabilitated.


Who are they? Young and old, men and women, black and white. Where are they? Beggars, like winos, walk. They frequent cities such as London, Bristol and Manchester, but affluent towns and even rural areas are also affected. How many? Approximately 3,000 homeless beggars in London. Their ranks are swelled by bogus beggars with homes and incomes. Preventive action? Local authorities and charities run hostels and night shelters. Soup runs operate nationwide. Winners and losers? Beggars and the public strike it lucky if the homeless get off the streets and into work.


Who are they? Bruce Willis, Kylie Minogue, Tom Cruise and our very own Adam Faith. Anyone between the ages of 16 and 60. Where are they? Parks and pavements in the United States and the UK. How many? British stores sold 300,000 pairs of skates last year. Preventive action? Not yet. Maybe soon. Winners and losers? Rollerbladers get fit and have fun, but spend more than pounds 200 on rollerblades and safety equipment. A cyclist was killed in a collision with a blader in a London park.


Who are they? Wandering wassailers or bawling bards, depending on whether your name is Jack Straw or not. Where are they? On most street corners and on the London Underground. How many? Impossible to say. Buskers mushroom overnight. Preventive action? Yes: police move buskers on if they are obstructing the pavement or causing a disturbance, and they are fined if caught on the Underground. Buskers can only apply for temporary licences if they are participating in organised entertainment. Winners and losers? People flock to hear buskers in London's Covent Garden but plug their ears elsewhere.


Who are they? Mostly men, but some women, in their twenties and thirties who clean car windscreens New York-style at traffic lights and junctions. Where are they? Mostly London - especially at Vauxhall and major junctions. How many? Increasing numbers. Preventive action? Difficult to police - occasional prosecutions. Winners and losers? Satisfied motorists and squeegees win; harassed motorists lose.


Who are they? Homeless and ex-homeless people aged between 17 and 70. Where are they? Mainly cities, but increasingly rural areas. The launch of a North-east edition of the 'Big Issue' is imminent. How many? About 8,000 nationwide. Preventive action? The 'Big Issue' helps to combat homelessness. Winners and losers? Everyone wins from the 'Big Issue'. The punters get a paper and the homeless get some cash.


Who are they? Wealthy young white males make up the biggest group of drug users, but hard drugs are used most regularly by manual and unskilled workers. Where are they? Urban centres: London, Liverpool, Manchester, and especially Glasgow and Edinburgh. But the problem is spreading to rural England, particularly the South-west. How many? One in five Britons takes illegal drugs. Fewer than 1 per cent use hard drugs. Preventive action? Clinics funded by charities and the Government. Winners and losers? Fighting drug abuse benefits users, the public and the Government.