By intensively studying a group of street people, I have looked at the poorest and most heavily stigmatized members of U.S. society through a different lens. Despite grinding poverty caused by the failure of the U.S. economic system, and despite the historical patterns of repression against the poor, such poverty did not make our subjects isolated or pathetic. The voices from Checkerboard Square suggest that street people can develop their own culture, values, and community. Their way of life is a rational response to their social and economic conditions. Although stripped of the basic components the public believes are essential to life—home, family, property, secure jobs—street people not only participate in a community life but continue their associations even if they secure housing. Their understanding of society—sometimes instinctive, sometimes more politically sophisticated—leads them to resist various demands made upon them and to develop alternative ways of getting basic needs met.