How much do panhandlers really make? Can you possibly make a living at this? How much of a difference does a funny sign make? Will people give to a guy in a banana suit? Does every sign have to say "God Bless?" Important questions. I aim to find the answers. Give me a dollar. God Bless.

Friday, August 12, 2005

strange days

Yesterday I went to panhandle at Safeway and I met the crew of folks that works that parking lot every day. I talked with them for quite a while and then a couple of them took me to their camp. They have a mattress hidden in the bushes between a freeway off ramp and the street. They've lived here for about three weeks, which is a pretty long time they tell me. The have to move every few weeks usually, moving along when the cops, or too many other homeless folks find their place.

They spend at least $20 bucks a day on heroin and that takes care of hunger pains too, so they don't have a-lot of expenses. They get water and food from handouts and food closets. I felt bad for them, but I was real conflicted. They seemed pretty comfortable. They had each other, they had their drugs, and they both said they liked living outside. I'm sure it sucks in the winter, but here while things are good, they seemed content to just enjoy the camping. God I sound so conservative.

They had a friend with them named Box Car Frank. Frank had no legs and was flashing around a few fifty dollar bills. He claimed to have so much money that he was "Thinking of tearing it up and throwing it away." I just couldn't bring myself to ask the old homeless guy with no legs to give me some of that excess money, as much as I hated the thought of it being torn up and thrown away. He claimed to have family in the south sending him money whenever he asked and to be on the streets by choice. He was not a panhandler, but his presence I'm sure helped the panhandlers around him. He was a character but he didn't trust me, with my clean cloths and what not, so he only talked with me a little. His friends told me he lives in a car port.

There was another guy I met named Kevin. Kevin likes his beer, but Kevin had a bike that he managed to keep in working condition, and some friends that let him crash at their house for a few bucks a night. The also let him use their kitchen so he's able to cook. He seemed sincere about trying to find a way out. I'm guessing that the alcohol will prevent him from holding a day job but he seemed to be doing alright. Kevin spare changes but he also does the carboard signing on the freeway where he is often given the left over hotdogs from a guy who drives a roach coach (the "catering" trucks that sell food at construction sites and such.)

I'd rather give someone like Kevin a buck than the heroin addicts, but the truth is I don't mind giving to either. Their not living a glamorous life by dishonest means. If camping out and staying high is there thing it's fine with me. I feel no obligation to help them with that, and I admire folks that set up a support network to help them should they decide to try and get out of the lifestyle, but if I have an extra dollar or two I'd just as soon they have it to spend on dope as some hardworking business person have it for gasoline or neckties. Either lifestyle is fine with me.

And I feel more secure than ever about panhandling to support my own lifestyle, which is creative and productive and which I work hard at. So give me some money, support my lifestyle. There are donation buttons on the right, and I'm the only panhandler I've met who is happy


I'm getting ready to sell ad space on my carboard sign on e-bay. Just need to get an e-bay account set up, which requires a credit card, something most of us panhandlers don't have. When we fill out the application the "Occupation" field does us in every time. to take visa, mastercard or paypal. God bless.

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