Tracy Brown, 31, a former teenage hustler, co-founded HIPY in 1992 for those
considered hardened street kids, the ones who can't or don't want to deal with the rigidity of Covenant House and its insistence on mainstream values (it considers both Jason's cards and a man in drag "inappropriate"). HIPY is for those people who are not going to change their lives through a couple of counseling sessions a week and aren't looking for salvation through a GED. These are the ones who have laughed at too many intake questions at too many agencies and have said "fuck it" enough times now that almost everybody concerned is willing to leave it at that.

HIPY has an average caseload of 100, predominantly male and white. There's about an
80 percent turnover in a month's time; the average street youth uses HIPY for two to
three months and then disappears. More than half its clientele identifies itself as gay,
lesbian or bisexual, though sexual identity is a tricky area in street life, a common line
being, "Yeah, I'm bisexual - you buy me, I'm sexual."

HIPY offers condoms, food, HIV screening, apartments for HIV infected youth and
showers and will try to connect interested clients with other resources. But mostly it
offers them a place to go every day, an atmosphere where they can talk to adults who
aren't the police, lawyers or johns. And the clients have access to that environment even
if they smoked crack earlier in the day or walk out the door later to turn a trick. For this,
HIPY often draws the criticism that it's sustaining a street lifestyle. Brown rejects that
idea, arguing that the tough-love approach only keeps people away. "You can't talk to
someone about alternatives if they're not there" He adds that where social services can't
or won't intervene, somebody else will.

"Social-service agencies, due to ethical reasons, moral reasons, don't work very well with
these kids," Brown says. "They have these kinds of rules where if you just took
everything away from them, they would [hit] rock bottom. Well, there's always a drug
dealer out there, a pedophile out there who's willing to get these kids off the street. Most
of these kids who get off the streets do successfully make it through those avenues. That's how I got off. I got off because a drug dealer was willing to help me get off.

"We aren't drug dealers, and we aren't pimps an HIPY, but that's our competition," Brown says.


"Everybody talks about Alex," says Alex, who's 21 years old and rented a Montrose
apartment that was home to a number of drag queens and male prostitutes. "I'm a father, lover, doctor, I'm all that." Alex says he acted as a friend to the street kids of the
Montrose who needed order and structure in their lives. "I'm going out every goddamn
night, hustlin', suckin' dick," he complains from prison, "[and] all I ask for is complete
loyalty and trust. . . . I have set times of the day you eat breakfast, you eat lunch, you eat dinner. How hard is that? You eat at those times, or you don't eat at all."

There are other self-styled leaders in Montrose with loose-knit, loosely defined
followings that dissolve as quickly as they come together. There's "Lost Boy" (Jason Ray
McMahon, a dope dealer according to papers filed with the court), whose reputation was
exaggerated, say close observers.

Brown describes Lost Boy as somebody on a different level economically than Alex: "He was a master con artist, educated, well mannered - a manipulator. He is fairly attractive, always had cash. He would buy food for people and give out cigarettes."

At least one of the defendants in the Meinecke case, according to a police data base, is identified as lost Boy's employee; the occupations of two defendants are listed in the data base as "thug" and "dope dealer." Lost Boy's attorney, Fred Heacock, says many of the defendants were probably involved in "minor drug sales."


In the Lock-Up

Alex is 6 feet 3 inches tall, muscular, with dyed orange hair. I met him in the Harris
County Jail, in Houston, where he's being kept in isolation. He agreed to talk without his
court-appointed lawyer present because he says he has nothing to lose. He calls his
lawyer a "dickhead" and complains that the lawyer thinks he's "weird and arrogant" and
doesn't believe his story - the primary theme of which is that Alex led the torture of Rudy
Meinecke at the direction of Lost Boy, who, Alex claims, said he wanted Meinecke dead.
Heacock says Lost Boy pleaded not guilty and denies any involvement.

Alex says he complied to save his people ("My guys aren't fighters; they're faggots")
from being wiped out by Lost Boy. He also says he was trying to claim the $5,000 bounty
that he says Lost Boy put out on Meinecke. Heacock scoffs at the idea that Lost Boy
offered a reward.

Alex claims Meinecke worked for Lost Boy, "running simple little packages - packages
of dope, packages of money, packages of coke, here and there . . . a little gofer."
Meinecke was supposedly skimming money and losing packages, and owed a debt to
Lost Boy, Alex says. It was also thought that Meinecke and possibly his girlfriend
informed to the police. According to people who knew them on the streets, the two had
been involved in a number of conflicts in the Montrose, and Meinecke had apparently
been threatened, beaten and confronted a number of times before the kidnapping.

Meinecke's father vehemently denies that his son was involved in drag running. A law enforcement official says that the drag-debt story is "complete bullshit" and that
Meinecke was just "the kind of kid who got his ass kicked."

For his part, Alex says, "You don't offer 5,000 goddamn dollars to a bunch of homeless
kids, 'cause every-things gonna' get out of control."

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