New York City's Street Kids

photograph of a chain link fence

In 1996, Alexia Lewnes began reporting on the kids who live on New York City's streets. In Misplaced, she follows five young people:

  • Stephanie and her boyfriend Fraggle, runaways with heroin habits from Ohio and Virginia, who panhandle, sell drugs, and salvage discarded food and clothing from dumpsters on the streets of the Lower East Side;

  • Dakota (from the Bronx) who schools a shy teenager Cedric (from Brooklyn) on how to survive on the streets. They spend their days roaming through the Port Authority Bus terminal, dodging police officers, their nights trying to sleep on subways or in city shelters;

  • Juan, a foster child, who, by 13, had his jaw broken by two boys at school because he was gay. By 16, he had lived in more than a dozen group and foster homes, often running from boys who harassed him, and from child care workers who did little to protect him.

These kids get get pneumonia, overdose on heroin, are arrested, get beaten up, are chased by people they owe money to, and trade sex for food, drugs, shelter and companionship. Some are even rounded up for daytime talk shows that attempt to reunite them with their long lost families. These young people speak honestly about their lives - love for parents who beat them; desire for relationships to ease their loneliness; dreams of living in a house and having a dog; pain of racial isolation; fear of dying alone.

By tracing the path of these five young people from their homes to our street corners and incorporating the perspectives of family members, social service providers, and other significant adults in their lives, Misplaced sheds light on the causes - not just the symptoms - of their alienation. Lewnes also reminds us that these kids don't suddenly "grow up" and become responsible adults. Rather, they often become society's outcasts or offenders. In the end, we are reminded that what happens to them affects us all.