Jungle Yard
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There was a chill that night in the hobo jungle
Over the train yard lay a smooth coat of frost
And although nobody here really knows where they're goin'
At the very same time nobody's lost

Then the fire went out and the night grew still
This old man lay frozen on the cold, cold ground
He was a stray bird and the road was his callin'
Ridin' the rods
Sleepin' under the stars
Playin' the harp from a rollin' box car

(from) Hobo Jungle The Band

Basic Information

A jungle yard (or simply jungle, sometimes referred to as "the weeds") is a makeshift but semi-permanent campsite, traditionally occupied by hobos, but potentially home to all sorts of itinerants and the destitute in general. A step up from living directly on the street, but possibly below squatting it is, at least, cheaper than the cheapest of flophouses. Expect an assortment of tents and shacks (for the well to do or any "barnacle" who has stuck around a while), through an assortment of bivouacs, bashas and benders occupied by the less fortunate. Such places are often found on derelict industrial lots, disused railway sidings and the sort of waste ground that gets trapped around major infrastructure projects - for example under elevated roads or between railway lines and rivers: anywhere there is space to set up, with reasonable access and egress for a none too fussy person afoot and where they are unlikely to be noticed and/or moved on. Access to building materials, water and other services are almost luxuries in context. Something like a jungle may also appear in storm drains and the like, assuming they are not often used for their intended purpose. As already implied, a squat may also serve as a de-facto jungle. Storm drains are a common, but not altogether safe, place for a jungle. In more manufactured environments - such as space stations or arcologies - jungles are likely to form in structural voids, fallow spaces and those machine and service spaces not well secured and/or regularly maintained. Like the storm drains, such spaces may provide the occasional, rather short lived, surprise to the residents.

Jungles are rarely entirely legitimate, but may be tolerated by a community that can use the cheap labour that hobos provide - others may be well hidden in case of official or casual violence targeting their occupants.

During the day, a jungle may well be almost deserted, except for those hobos unable to find work (or just unable to work) and any that have been working at night. In some cases, less able bodied members may serve as watchmen for the rest, standing guard over the jungle to prevent (as best they can), theft of what little there is to steal or casual harassment of the community.

Eventually, as the number of true hobos goes down and the number of "barnacles" goes up - and especially once families start appearing - a jungle may transform itself into a full blow shanty town. In times of economic disaster shanty towns can proliferate - such as the Hoovervilles of the American depression.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Extremely poor PCs may end up living here, as may those on the run if they can find acceptance from the hobos.
    • This would be the obvious outcome for those whose players try to spend the minimum possible on their character's subsistence so that they can spend more money on buying weapons, armour and other things to fulfil their primary function of killing things.
    • Would-be settlers who are unwelcome are apparently presented with a match, signalling that they should go and light their own fire, as they are not welcome to share those of the existing community.
      • Presumably including the literal murderhobos noted above.
  • This may also be a good place to recruit casual and (normally) at best semi-skilled labour - although the hobos may go elsewhere to be hired and be extremely suspicious of anyone coming to find them "at home".
    • Of course, in a bad enough economic climate, even people with semi-regular jobs may find themselves living in the jungle - this goes even more so for those who have social or legal barriers to occupying better housing. In the real world, this often means (former) criminals and illegal aliens, in more exotic settings it may mean (half)orcs or actual aliens.
  • Missing persons may occasionally be found living here by anyone with sufficient street-wisdom to track them down.
  • Likewise, anyone hoping for information from the hobos had best be subtle - actually approaching the jungle will likely put everyone on the defensive, especially if they look like they might be a policeman, or someone else prone to make trouble for hobos (which may include some charitable workers).
  • The better the climate, the more likely you are to find a jungle yard - places where it regularly freezes in the winter and/or is cold and wet may find them absent in favour of squatting or only occupied part of the year. Hot, dry climates may find the jungle operating all year around, and a jungle in a jungle is not beyond the bounds of possibility.
  • This is a good place for hobos to hold a boil-up1 or clubbing together to make hobo stew (or stone soup) … as long as you can tell which is which.
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