You see them if you look around while driving through any urban center of the United States. Or maybe you don't- It all depends on your perspective. You can find them in alleys, on steam grates in the winter, in parks in the summer. You see them in the subway, you see them in the bus stop. They may be passed out in a gutter, or dancing in the street stopping traffic. They are there day, night, and everything in between, and we call them skells.

The term skell can come to describe anyone from a homeless person, to a hard core drug addict, to a criminal. The term is a blanket one, and covers many different types of what is known also as "street people". Some are violent, many are not and I have the grace to help these people every day with their crisis du jour. Take Leon for example- Leon, is the quintessential "ladies man" always chasing the ladies. The problem is that Leon is an alcoholic heroin addict and ex-championship boxer with hepatitis.

Leon's a good guy, and one of my regulars as the police department (by law here in NJ) is required to send to the hospital anyone who is intoxicated. He coined the nickname "Cracker" to a probie I oriented not to long ago, and is dating another person of the same disposition when she's not in jail on a warrant. He's more then happy to show you that he can touch his nose with his tongue...If he takes out his dentures, and will openly expose himself to any woman within viewing distance. However, as much as Leon likes the ladies, he has no tolerence for other men, and has a tendence to be very violent- unless you want to talk about girls that is, and I have no problem with that.

Or take a woman who goes by the name of "Jackie Daniels", a fitting pseudonym for a homeless alcoholic prostitute who when she's in town is in the ER every day. She is always violent, often found by the police during a disturbance of sorts, and always denies drinking, no matter how much her words slur, or how much vodka you find in her bags. Or Guillermo who says he's a Vietnam vet, even though he was born in 1956, and says because he was in "Special Forces" he needs to kill to stay alive, even though he dosen't want to hurt me "He has to kill me". Charming.

There was the legendary Carol, who was another alcoholic prostitute among other things, who had a history of seizures, so whenever she wanted a meal would call 911 to go to the hospital saying she needed meds. We would often take her two times a day, once to St. Peters, then when they would release her she would call 911 again from the pay phone across the street at the liquor store to go to Robert Wood, and we would have to take her there. She was killed by being stuck by a car on Rt 1 in Newark.

Then theres Tommy. Tommy comes into the city thanks to the Port Authority PD who don't want to deal with him. We take him to the hospital almost every other day for "leg pain" in reality, he just wants a meal, and wants to go there because we're "his friends". That statement is fairly touching because it makes you realize that in their eyes we (EMS) are the only people who care about them and their stories, and view them as people.

So the next time you're on a bus, or in the subway and you see someone playing a guitar with a bucket for change, or someone sitting in the cone of light passed out under a streetlight, don't view them as a nothing. They might be alcoholics, drug addicts, and other people you don't feel are worth your time but they are a person. They have a family, and a story, and you cannot pass judgement without first knowing that story as one day it could very easily be you that others refer to as a "skell". Just some food for thought.