Hobo, Tramp and Bum are all vulgar words that demean the people they describe. Using these words is easier than saying “migrant worker”, “person without a home”, “wanderer”, “someone down on his luck”, “unemployed and out of housing”. But, they were not always vulgar. They are names in a caste system of wanders and migrants.
A Hobo is a migrant worker and initially a California phenomenon. No one is really sure where the word comes from. I have heard it is a mix of HELLO BOY and HOmeward BOund. Which begs the point – Hobos are migrant but sometimes not homeless. They travel far, live hard lives and are away from home more often that in their homes, but they have one. Hobos are also workers. By their own Code of Ethics, number 4 is Always trying to find work, even if temporary, and always seek out jobs nobody wants. By doing so you not only help a business along, but ensure employment should you return to that town again.”
Hobo ethical code
An ethical code was created by Tourist Union #63 during its 1889 National Hobo Convention in St. Louis Missouri. This code was voted upon as a concrete set of laws to govern the Nation-wide Hobo Body; it reads this way:
- Decide your own life, don’t let another person run or rule you.
- When in town, always respect the local law and officials, and try to be a gentleman at all times.
- Don’t take advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable situation, locals or other hobos.
- Always try to find work, even if temporary, and always seek out jobs nobody wants. By doing so you not only help a business along, but ensure employment should you return to that town again.
- When no employment is available, make your own work by using your added talents at crafts.
- Do not allow yourself to become a stupid drunk and set a bad example for locals’ treatment of other hobos.
- When jungling in town, respect handouts, do not wear them out, another hobo will be coming along who will need them as bad, if not worse than you.
- Always respect nature, do not leave garbage where you are jungling.
- If in a community jungle, always pitch in and help.
- Try to stay clean, and boil up wherever possible.
- When traveling, ride your train respectfully, take no personal chances, cause no problems with the operating crew or host railroad, act like an extra crew member.
- Do not cause problems in a train yard, another hobo will be coming along who will need passage through that yard.
- Do not allow other hobos to molest children, expose all molesters to authorities, they are the worst garbage to infest any society.
- Help all runaway children, and try to induce them to return home.
- Help your fellow hobos whenever and wherever needed, you may need their help someday.
- If present at a hobo court and you have testimony, give it. Whether for or against the accused, your voice counts!
Someone is HOMELESS if they lack a regular or fixed night-time residence of their own that is suitable for human habitation. People on the streets. in shelters, living part-time in motels or doubled up with family and friends. Some of the homeless are working, many of them are the “Working Poor”. Chronic homelessness is when someone is homeless longer than a year or many times in a period of 3 years.
Tramps are people who work only when they have to, and mostly travel by trains like Hobos.
Bums never work at all, nor do they travel unless law enforcement moves them along. -( of course I am partial to “dem Bums” but only because I am a Dodger’s fan!)
Hobo’s Tramps and Bums are disliked because they seem to have chosen the life they lead – and it is a lifestyle not congruent with the standards of popular culture.
I don’t hear these words too often any more, but it came to mind when I came across the iHobo i-phone, ipad, itouch app.