We had an appointment in front of the Central Station, at 6 p.m. The last lights of the day were passing through the trees’ branches of the park – slightly gloomy and always busy – leading to the old building. There, a dozen of students were waiting in circle, jumping from one feet to another, because the temperature was falling under 10 degrees and no one had expected this sunny day to turn into a cold night.
Breaking the circle, a strange guy began to talk with one of the Czech students. He wore a black straight trouser and black shoes, but his top did not fit with this boring and serious outfit. He had several sweater overloading each other, the last one representing strange orange apocalyptic figures related with some kind of heavy metal band. Around the neck, he had a foolish set of necklaces, from every style: fake pearls, feathers, little figurines… On each of his fingers, he carried 5 to 6 rings; once again, no consistency in their style, rings from every kind, every form, every material. His fingers ended up with glittery silver coloured fake nails. His old and cheap pink sunglasses hid his eyes. When he took them of, a couple of minute later, they revealed an abundance of make-up, black under his eyes, silver on his eyelid, extremely long fake lashes, and tired eyes full of sorrow and weariness.
That was Karim, our guide for the next three hours.
Indeed, all the students waiting in circle accepted the proposition of our buddy system to make a visit with Pragulic, a social enterprise that offers to visit the beautiful city of Prague with homeless people, to get the chance to see the city through their eyes, and share, just for few moments, their experience, their position, their issues …
A story of prostitution and drugs
And Ziggy’s issues are drugs and prostitution. He ended up on the street quite young and fell into prostitution. Therefore, he knows quite good the business, the district specialization (the one dedicated to heterosexual, homosexual, transformer or children), the different business models and the zone where they apply (in one district only free-lancer, in this park everyone has a pimp, in those streets some clubs offer protection).
Honestly, after 5 minutes of talk we were flabbergasted to a point you can barely imagine. We didn’t get every single detail, this world remained very far from us, although it was narrowing with every word coming out of Karim’s mouth.
The drug was a topic he somehow mastered.
He explained us all the different kind of drugs we could find on the street, where to get them, how we could make our own drug (crocodile) with everyday products like washing powder, soap and other detergent.
More important, he made it clear that anyone could end up on the street very fast, because of familial or work problem, and that then, you had little chance to come back on the other side, the good side, the clean side (only 2% he said). Reason for that? Madness.
Indeed, street – for people who live on it – is a different world as the one we know. It is an organized world, submitted to different rules, a « normal » people would maybe not understand.
Most of the people ending up on the street were disown by their families and have to make their place in this world, finding a way to earn money (stealing, begging, prostituting), to get protection, a place to sleep.
Karim puts a particular affection into everything he told us, as if he was feeling a mix of love and disgust for the mad life and the mad world he was leaving in. He was proud to know so much and be the one who revealed all those secrets most the people ignore. He told us many tricks on how to survive on the street, here are some of them:
Everything about Dumpster
They are the Nr. 1 place where people sleep, because they help them protect from cold. They are two kinds of dustbin, those in plastic, and those in metal. You better choose one in metal, because it resonates. So, usually, before jumping into a dumpster, you have to bang it with your feet, if someone is sleeping inside, he will shut at you, otherwise, you can jump into it. Equally, the garbage men can inform you before emptying the dustbin, otherwise, it may kill you.
The food eaten by the homeless comes mainly from the dustbin, so if you want to help homeless people, you can just put the rest of your food nearby a dustbin instead of putting it inside. As well if you want to throw out objects that may still work. Indeed, as soon as you put them inside the garbage, it becomes the property of the city. If you put it besides, everyone is allowed to take it.
The many usages of aluminium foal
Aluminium foal may be one of your best allies if you are living on the street. Indeed, you can wrap yourself with it to stay warm. You can also use it to steal stuff in shops. You need to put many lays of aluminium foal in your bag and then put the stolen object in it. The aluminium will impeach the chip to ring at the entrance. Finally, you can test the drug you buy with aluminium. You put the powder on it and heat the bottom of it. If it evaporates, then it is good shit, if it becomes dark, then the guy is trying to rip you off.
By attending the tour, you will learn a lot more on how to find drugs, where to have the cheapest prostitute, VIP party you do not want to be part of, …
Seriously, the visit was an upsetting experience that allows us to dig into the street’s life. The most striking idea I kept from it, is that everything is very organized and submitted to very precise rules: the place you sleep, the place you work, the way you behave with your client, your « friend ». Another point that stokes me is the influence of the street on your mental health. Karim made it clear that people living on the street have their mind turned over, and this in very little time, few months or weeks maybe.
It led me to think that public forces should do everything possible to prevent people from living on the streets, how bad the current economic or social (blah blah blah) situation is, and even if their arrivals were unexpected, because it is a one-way journey, and there will be very few chances to bring them back to decent lives after a short time. On the other hand, living on the street, they will certainly make the number of rubber, prostitute and drugs dealer grow, what public forces are supposed to avoid.