Teun Voeten is an anthropologist and war photographer. He sent me this Tunnel People book which now has become one of my favorite books I have read in years!

Tunnel People

in the 90’s New York City was a bit different than it is now. There were many “homeless” people living on the streets, and in the many tunnels of the subway and train system of NYC.

Mole people (also called tunnel people or tunnel dwellers) are homeless people living under large cities in abandoned subwayrailroadfloodsewage tunnels, and heating shafts.[1][2] The term may also refer to the speculative fiction trope of an entirely subterranean society.” – Wikipedia

About the Tunnel People book

Teun Voeten went to explore the tunnels of New York City and befriended a few of the many “tunnel people” living there. He actually ended up living with a few of them for a couple of months, and you can read about his experiences with the “tunnel people” in this book. The tunnel he explored was the Amtrak one running alongside the Hudson River. I love reading non-fiction, to learn about history and experiences of people. That’s why this book was a perfect gift! What I also liked was the font and language Teun used, as it very easy-to-read. The book really gave me a good idea of how these people lived. I also love reading about the history of my hometown of New York City!

What I will remember after reading this book

Even though the people living in the tunnel were having a hard time, many of them made the tunnel their home and even built their own shelter spaces. They seemed to have kind of a daily rhythm and were trying to make some money usually by collecting empty bottles with a bottle deposit fee for recycling. This gave them purpose in life and many took it seriously. Also, they seemed to care to find something to enjoy each day. Whether it was a nice “home cooked” meal, or smoking illegal substances. The main characters really came to life.  Bernard, Bob, Ment, Frankie, Tony, Joe & Kathy to name a few formed in my head, and when I was halfway down the book I realized there were photographs in the book as well! It was interesting to see that what I had in my head really matched the people in the photographs.

What happend to the tunnel people

Interesting fact is that eventually Amtrak and the City helped the people out of the tunnel and closed off the tunnel. The reason was that Donald Trump (the current President of the United States of America) was going to develop new construction and a park there, and so the tunnel people had to go. That area has since really developed into a nice place. And while the tunnel people found a new place to live, they did seemed to long for their days in the tunnel.

READ MORE: Helping the homeless on cold days

About Teun Voeten

As I mentioned earlier in this review he contacted me through Twitter. I am very straightforward about different issues on Twitter and maybe he liked that. When he visited NYC recently, we met and we talked about these different topics. What is intriguing is that he travels the World to the most dangerous places to record what is going on. His bio is extensive! He received his doctoral degree in 2018 from the University of Leiden after his PhD research on the drug wars of Mexico. Right now he is focused on mapping global trends in drugs, and especially drug-related crime in Antwerp, Belgium.

Get the book

if you want to read an easy-to-read true story which gives a good idea about life on the streets of NYC in the 90’s, this is the book for you:

If you know of other great true story books, please send them to me!

Love, Lonneke