I’m offering a position that pays $3 an hour; the requirements are, but not subject to, wandering the streets aimlessly dressed in haggard clothes.
Rodney Havens from St. George posted a request at Facebook.com/RequestRobby:
“Robby, I’m requesting you to try pretending that you’re homeless and see how much money you get. Then donate the money you make to Dixie Care and Share.”
I took Havens’ challenge and added a speed factor to see how much money I could make in an hour. I attempted the request in a public area, testing some approaches I have seen homeless people use.
If I were to assume the look of a bum, I had to dress the part. I put on sweat pants, a plaid shirt, and two coats with no coordinating colors. I’ve always seen street urchins soliciting money from people with the use of cardboard propaganda, figuring guilt would be an effective contributor for their pitch. I constructed my own sign from half a pizza box and wrote in forceful penmanship, “Need $ for Gas.”
I was little disappointed with myself as I’ve seen much more creativity from the professionals. I saw one individual in Las Vegas in mid-December who had written on his sign: “I’m not going to lie, I need money for hookers.”
Appealing to a simple theme for signage, I kept what I had written and continued on with picking out my starting location at the Promenade Plaza on River Road. I sat Indian-style where foot traffic had been crossing most frequently in the area, right in front of some benches and a fountain. I brought a hat and placed it in front of me 2 feet away and set my sign leaning against my legs.
I figured a hunch in my back and a hooded sweater covering my head would help me to seem down on my luck. I thought if I made myself socially disconnected, looking down at the ground and frowning, I could attract some sympathetic souls.
Initially, four people were watching me as I ate Goldfish crackers and mini marshmallows. There was an older gentleman with them who proceeded to narrate my life and comment on the poor choices that led me to my awful condition as a homeless, booze driven, helpless individual. The group left about 10 minutes after I had arrived — about the same time I finished eating my snack.
Twenty pairs of feet, 10 vehicles and 10 more minutes had passed before someone finally stopped to give me money. A man on his phone walked around the benches from a table he had been sitting at and handed me $2 dollars.
I said, “Thank you.”
He continued to chat on the phone and walk away.
It was another five minutes before the next set of sympathetic onlookers approached me and gave me a dollar. They were a couple of teenagers, a boy and a girl, who walked up from the front, stepping over my hat to hand me the dollar directly. They wished a good day and left in the same direction they came.
I was a little nervous sitting there because I expected a police officer or a disgruntled citizen to question what I was doing. I’ve rarely seen homeless people, so I assumed people would treat me as an intruder. This was not the case.
I spent another five minutes sitting on the floor, and at the 30-minute mark I started the traveling beggar portion.
I walked from the Promenade Plaza to 100 South, turned at Fabulous Freddy’s, and headed toward the college. I gave a needy look to the passers-by and put out my hat and sign.
It was a difficult transition as I had been sitting bow-legged for so long my knees had fallen asleep, and it took a few minutes to overcome the awkward limp that came from it.
People just ignored me, looked through me and avoided eye-contact. The walking portion was challenging as I noticed people crossing the street early to avoid passing me. I expected at least a smile from people, if not some spare change, but I had no success from walking.
A friend noticed me and picked me up in her vehicle and drove me to my next location. My last attempt, with the clock cutting close to the end, was to enter a fast food restaurant and hopefully get some free food or spare change. The employees at Taco Bell looked at me and treated me just as they always have. I did not get any free food.
Being in St. George, where homeless people are limited, I assumed I would have a corner on the market and rake in about $10. I made $3 in one hour of looking dirty and holding a sign, which is more than enough money for two Grillers from Taco Bell. I expected more, but if I were actually homeless, I could at least eat.
If you’re dressed gross and have a pizza box sign, you can purchase a meal, or you can donate to Dixie Care and Share to feed the people who really need it.