Streetwise is a documentary that follows several runaway youth in the 1980s living on the streets of Seattle. Most are no older than 16, but already have made careers for themselves as pimps and prostitutes, thieves and muggers, panhandlers and dumpster divers, and doing what they can to survive.
In a 2006 edition of the New Yorker, a critic suggested that these kids are kind of led by a sense of street freedom, but as another viewer commented, it is likely that a lot of these people, even Rat, were probably miserable, despite the best attempts to hide it or convince themselves otherwise (This was made clear by Rat's opening remark about the things he hated about flying--"coming back to the f***in' earth.") Clearly, Dewayne was, as he committed suicide at the age of 16. The sad thing is that these were kids of children themselves. Not in the sense that they were born to teenagers (which may actually be the case), but that many of their parents had not yet matured beyond their own selfishness to care for these kids as they needed to be (Tiny's mother rationalized her daughter's prostitution as a "phase"). Some of the young girls, 14 and hooking, tell us about their abusive fathers and stepfathers that, despite miserable marriages, their mothers still stuck by them irregardless of the negative consequences to their own children. Rat tells about this too, where he was tired of being between his helpless, divorced parents feuding. Or just parents who seemed capable of having kids, but not raising them. And since no one cared for them as children (most of them, I'm not sure what the background was on the young black man who was pimping the girls, the one who's mother and probably grandmother later show up and ask him to come home), they took the streets and became, as Tiny's mother says, 14 going on 21. They were the city of the lost children.
Some might criticize this movie as being unrealistic, and at least the things coming from Dewayne's dad when talking to his son sounds like something from a film, although the Sound Recordist for the film has assured in his own comments that this is not the case. That there was no script. It makes the events all the more heartbreaking. If the purpose of the film was to raise awareness of the life of young runaways, it makes it point and drives it home hard. It also drives home hard that the policies of Regeanomics (joked by Dewayne later in the film) were hurting those lowest on the income scales (and consequently, moving many into the street). And it makes me wonder what the numbers of runaways and street kids are these days. Washington, DC (where I live now) has a large homeless population relative to the size of the district, but I never see any young panhandlers or prostitutes and wonder, is the situation still the same? Are the institutions working more to get kids off the streets? What has become of the Streetwise now?