This article examines the survival strategies undertaken by homeless people. The findings of an ethnographic research, both in Italy and in Colombia, highlight the main activities which are performed by the homeless for their daily survival. We can call those activities ‘shadow works’. They refer to the informal and hidden economy linked to exchanges carried out direct-ly on the street and allow the procurement of essential goods for the mental and physical health of the people who live their marginality on the street. These works are "shadow" in the sense that, in addition to belonging to the informal sphere of the underground economy, they often reproduce work activities of the "normal" society in a form adapted to street life. Challenging many misconceptions, this article suggests that "street society" is complex, organized, clearly separated from mainstream society, and providing a cultural framework that guides homeless people’s survival strategies.
Keywords: Homeless; cultura; economia informale; etnografia; sopravvivenza, salute.