D'Angelo: And you're a goddamn drug dealer.
Bodie: So? So, what, the customer is always right?
The drug trade would, of course, be nothing without the people who actually buy drugs. The various homeless characters of The Wire are the show's way of exploring these often-ignored individuals. The main homeless character is Bubbles, a drug addict who, whilst prepared to go pretty damn low for his fix, is nevertheless one of the more human and morally upright characters on the show. The show charts his struggles with addiction and the world around him, especially the desperation and fear of the day-to-day life of one of the War on Drugs' refugees.
A homeless heroin addict. He mentors Johnny Weeks from seasons 1-3, teaching him the skills of scheming and scrounging that are necessary to support a life on the streets. When Weeks is attacked by members of the Barksdale crew, Bubbles renews his duties a police informant, providing critical information to Greggs and McNulty. In season 4, Bubbs takes a different homeless youngster, Sherrod, under his wing. Unfortunately for Bubbs, the season also sees him being repeatedly beaten and robbed by another drug addict. As Kima and McNulty are no longer working drugs at that point, Bubbs must settle for snitching for the considerably less reliable Herc, who twice fails to come to Bubbles's aid. Bubbles pays Herc back for his incompetence by feeding him bad information that gets Herc in some trouble with his superiors, but his plan for dealing with the robber backfires, resulting in Sherrod's death. He turns himself in and attempts suicide, but is receives an uncharacteristic bit of mercy from Jay Landsman, who decides not to charge Bubbs and instead has Bubbs put into a detox ward where he's watched carefully to make sure he won't kill himself.
- Blue Oni: To Johnny Weeks', and later Sherrod's, Red Oni. It keeps him alive while both of them end up dead.
- Butt-Monkey: Played for drama.
- Classical Anti-Hero: Bubbs has a lot of good qualities, (cleverness, ingenuity, an entrepreneurial personality, business savvy, a basically good heart, etc.) but he's certainly not many people's idea of a hero, nor is he looking to become one.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Over the course of the series he endures as much hardship as any other character, and he's one of only a few "street" characters who doesn't die, go to prison, or appear to be headed for one of those two fates in the end. His evolution from a vagrant heroin addict to a sober, well-adjusted individual is one of the few stories of redemption in the Wire's otherwise brutal, pitch-black universe. His monologue where he finally comes to terms with Sherrod's death is certainly one of the most emotional and compelling scenes in the entire show.
- Guile Hero: He manages to inform on various drug dealers for the better part of five seasons without ever being suspected of being a snitch, mostly because he's very clever in his information-gathering.
- The Informant: Partially earns his living working as one for the BPD.
- Interrupted Suicide: After Sherrod's death.
- The Mentor: Does his best to school his green protégés. It's fairly clear that Bubs genuinely enjoys teaching and trying to help the young men under his care, first by being a Big Brother Mentor to Johnny and later taking an almost fatherly interest in Sherrod.
- Mobile Kiosk: Starts telling t-shirts and other items from a shopping cart to support himself in season 3.
- My God, What Have I Done?: After Sherrod takes the "hot shot" Bubbles had prepared for his tormentor and dies.
- Only Known by Their Nickname:
- Until late in Season 5, his real name is revealed only through incidental references to legal documents and the like; he's almost always called "Bubbles" or "Bubbs" in conversation.
- Walon, despite having been Bubbles' sponsor for over a year only finds out his first name because Fletch says it in front of him.
- The Punishment Is the Crime: The reason Landsman drops his prosecution. Bubbles has to live with the guilt over Sherrod's death, but eventually he overcomes the grief and is able to move on.
- Street Smart: It's hinted that he's been navigating the streets for decades, the fact that he's still alive is because he's extremely savvy about living in the streets.
- Those Two Guys: With Johnny Weeks.
- Trauma Conga Line: Until his happy ending.
- Tropaholics Anonymous: Bubbles drifts in and out of various recovery programs and addiction support groups until he finally sobers up for good in season 5.
A homeless addict taken under the wing of Bubbles. He is caught trying to pull off Bubbles' scam of paying for drugs with counterfeit bills, which brings down the wrath of Bodie and Poot and leaves him in the hospital. While he's there, he also learns that he has HIV. Johnny objects to Bubbles snitching to the police, but the two continue operating together until the third season, when Weeks goes to Hamsterdam and becomes a permanent resident there. He is found dead by overdose some time later.
- Bus Crash: Dies off-screen.
- Con Man: Participates in several with Bubbles. But he's much less successful when he tries to run them on his own.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: He seems to regard being forced to go to Narcotics Anonymous, or the possibility of getting clean, as this. When he attends a NA meeting with Bubbs, Bubbs recognizes a few people and comments that he hasn't seen them in so long he assumed they were dead. Johnny comments that being clean and sober is practically the same thing. Only Walon's speech manages to inspire a moment of doubt for Johnny, and only very briefly.
- The Ditz: In the most self-destructive way.
- Expy: Johnny is an extension of Leo Fitzpatrick's character from Kids.
- Famous Last Words: Last thing we hear Johnny say is when he told Carver "Shit, I already got my blast right here!". "Blast" meaning the drugs that killed him.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Suffers one after he gets caught trying to scam the Barksdale crew in the Pit.
- Nothing Personal: His attitude about getting beat by Bodie and company, accepting it as part of the game. He's shocked and even somewhat disturbed when Bubbles reveals that he has been informing on the Barksdales in revenge for Johnny's beating.
- Red Oni: Unlike Bubbles, who is more restrained and cautious in his drug use, he uses impulsively and recklessly. It leads to his death by overdose.
- White Gangbangers: Comes off as one at times.
A young homeless dealer who is taken in by Bubbles. Bubbles tries to get him to go back to school, but Sherrod does not, and starts using. When they are attacked repeatedly by another junkie, Bubbles puts poison in a dose of heroin, in the hopes that the junkie would rob them, use, and die. Sherrod takes the dose by accident.
- Bumbling Sidekick: He becomes Bubbles' pupil, but cannot do the basic math required to sell goods from the cart. Bubbles points out that the two of them working together should be able to do more and expand the business, but can't because Sherrod can't be trusted to charge the correct prices.
- Dumb Is Good: He's not bright, but he has a good heart.
- Hope Spot: When he and Bubbles reunite, it briefly hoped that maybe they can fend off the Fiend who has been harassing Bubs and build more of a life for themselves. It doesn't work out, and Bubbles turns to the poisoned "hot shot" out of desperation which Sherrod then takes by mistake.
- Like a Son to Me: Bubbles comes to feel this away about him over time, even saying as much to Landsman while being questioned.
- Sacrificial Lion: Dies from a poisoned heroin dose meant for another junkie.
- Street Urchin: He's homeless and stopped going to school when he was around 10 years old.
An HIV-positive recovering drug addict and drug rehabilitation counselor.
- All-Loving Hero: Towards addicts, at least. He knows that most addicts have a lot of messing up and backsliding to do before they get clean, (he's been there himself) so he has a lot of patience and care for them, regardless of how many times they seem to screw up.I don't care who you are, what you done, or who you done it to. If you're here, I'm here.
- Ignored Epiphany: He inspires one in Bubs, as he's a big factor in Bubs deciding to get clean in Season 1, but by the end of the season Bubs is back to using, and it's not until after Sherrod's death in Season 4 and his own attempted suicide that Bubs is able to stay clean.
- The Mentor: An unofficial Reasonable Authority Figure who helps people walk the clean path.
- Put on a Bus: Shows up for two scenes in Season 1, then disappears all the way until the last episode of Season 4.
- The Sponsor: Gives advice on keeping clean. He becomes Bubbles' NA sponsor in Season 5.
- The Storyteller: Holds a degree of fame in his NA circles for the great stories he can spin about having been an addict and trying to get clean.
A drug addict. First seen buying an eight-ball of cocaine in Hamsterdam from a car, a year later she is living in West Baltimore and working as a prostitute. Fifteen months later again she is seen trying to stay clean at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.
A large and intimidating homeless addict, he is encountered in the fourth season. After first encountering Bubbles, he takes to repeatedly beating and robbing Bubbles as a way to feed his drug habit. The constant repetition of this, along with the repeated failure of Bubbles to find any legal help or recourse, will eventually drive Bubbles to take drastic action which ends tragically.
- Arch-Enemy: Becomes this for Bubbles during Season 4.
- The Bully: Bullies and harasses Bubbles frequently, robbing him of his money and other objects.
- Evil Counterpart: To Omar. Omar robs criminals and drug dealers for a living, while the fiend robs Bubbles, a petty thief, criminal, and occasional Con Man himself. The difference lies in how sympathetic their targets are and how they go about it. The fiend obviously takes much more pleasure in hurting people, and is robbing a much more sympathetic character who is considerably lower down the criminal food chain, which makes his actions cruel and despicable instead of cool and badass.
- Karma Houdini: A truly vile and despicable character. For as much grief and pain as he inflicted on Bubbles and Sherrod, nothing happens to him. We never see ANY comeuppance for him at all. In the first episode of season 5, Bubbles spots him still roaming the alleys in a drugged out haze.
- No Name Given: Neither a given name or a street handle are ever used to identify him. He tends to be identified as simply "the fiend". (As in a dope fiend.)
- Sadist: Seems to take pleasure in hurting Bubbles and later Sherrod.
- Scary Black Man: A tall, dangerous, and aggressive addict willing to rob and brutalize people for money.
A homeless, mentally ill man abducted by McNulty and taken to a homeless shelter in Virginia.
- Loss of Identity: McNulty passes him off as Donald from Cleveland. The poor man tries to say otherwise, but he can't help himself due to a disability.
- Morality Pet: Zigzagged for McNulty, who abducts him, takes him to an unfamiliar place and deprieves him of his idendity and medication. On the other hand Jimmy feels bad about his scheme and is clearly torn apart when he sees the guy unable to feed himself. And then again, it's implied in the final scene of the story that Jimmy is going to get the guy help.
- Unwitting Pawn: A central piece of the "serial killer" scheme. The man has no idea what is going on.