I'll bet a day doesn't go by that I don't hear something negative about crack cocaine, and the people who love it. Well, it just so happens that, despite all the mudslinging you may have read in the magazines, there are plenty of decent, hardworking crack lovers, just like in any other "walk of life."

Just because someone is desperately addicted to an incredibly intense form of refined cocaine doesn't mean they've forgotten about those old-fashioned values like thrift, cooperation and helping each other out. People always describe crack houses as someplace they wouldn't want to be. Well, the truth of the matter is that I wouldn't want to live anywhere where the people aren't working together. And that was exactly the key to turning our crack house into a crack home!

Just like a good drug needs to be cut in just the right proportions, an honest-to-goodness crack home needs the right mix of people, each with their own special qualities, but who are willing to be "team players" to achieve their shared goal of constantly staying high on a really expensive drug. Crack doesn't grow on trees, you know!

A home needs whores, shakedown boys, thieves, muggers, scam artists--a whole range of diverse people with unique attributes. Cooperation: That's the difference between a bunch of shivering people hitting the pipe in the same abandoned building, and a real family sharing a home.

We have a chart on the refrigerator to remind everyone of their duties, and we rotate the chores on a regular basis to make it fair. No one likes to get fucked in the ass by strangers every day for a week straight, do they? No, so we switch the chores so that today it's prostitution, but tomorrow it might be liquor-store hold-ups or muggings. I add colorful stickers and glitter to our duty chart, but you can personalize yours anyway you want, maybe by cutting pictures out of old magazines or using bright fuzzy yarn to string up the amputated fingers of suppliers who have passed you bad rock.

We're one big family in our crack home because we recognize the uniqueness of each and every individual addict. (Not everyone is good at everything, but everyone is good at something!) We keep the lines of communication open and remember to listen so everyone has a friend to turn to. Sure, we may poke fun when the maggots covering the piles of garbage find their way into the gaping sores all over Eddie's body that never seem to heal--but we'd never kick him out of the room just because we don't want to look at him.

Maybe someday our crack home will even have a till jar for bus rides to the free clinic. Then, hopefully, Yolanda will never again have to throw herself off the fire escape and crawl back upstairs to have a miscarriage on the kitchen floor.

Another big part of turning a crack house into a crack home is respect for everyone. Dr. Maxwell McFarland, author of Wake up and Live, reminds us that everything alive on this earth is dependent on something else. No one is a loner! I need you and you need me! If the pick-up doesn't come through and I start shaking so bad that I vomit, and someone else needs to vomit too, I'll share the cardboard box. If DeeDee has gone catatonic and hasn't shut her eyes since yesterday, none of us knock her over just for fun.

And if anyone should overdose or get shot or even just suddenly find a torrent of blood streaming from their nostrils and then choke to death on mouthfuls of black-red mucus, we all help carry the body over into the neighbor's yard. Like I said, it's about mutual respect. And if the body lays in the yard too long and stuff starts to eat it, we'll throw something over it.

I've been told it takes a whole village to raise a child and I believe it, so if Lisa's baby works her way free, I'll do my part to make sure she doesn't crawl out the window again.

Last but not least, there's no squabbling and rowing allowed in a good home. I even made a big sign that said "Words can hurt... Think before you speak!" and I hung it where everyone would see it--right over the big metal trash can that everyone defecates into now that the broken toilet fell through the urine-soaked floor. Almost everyone abides by the no-fighting rule, but if a conflict comes up, we have a house meeting and every one of us gets a vote. (Everyone, great or small, counts!) Then whoever is on "Judge" duty on the chore chart takes the person deemed at fault, and kills that person.

Sure, not all of us are as good at certain tasks as another person might be, but that doesn't matter, as long as everyone tries their best. Remember, the only way to be a winner is to first be a beginner! When you're trying to win one for the home team, 100 percent participation from every member is key. Anything less and Custard will shoot your arms off at the shoulder at close range.

The things I've told you about are all common sense. I was a Home Economics teacher for 31 years before I got hooked on crack and sold my Taurus station wagon, converting the cash into bags of pure snow. But I don't have any tricks up my sleeve, just a wish to see everyone reach their potential!

Surprisingly, when I moved into our little windowless abode, the homies were somewhat reluctant to make any changes at first. But after I knitted everyone a sweater--to combat the shakes--and got Custard on my side by becoming his bitch, everyone else followed right along. And now here we are, Home Sweet Home, a real family until we die or the city demolishes the building.