June 2, 2009

Can you spare any change?

Homeless SignIf you frequent the Rockefeller Center area, you're probably familiar with the panhandler who has claimed it as his turf. A bit on the shorter side, this redhead is usually adorned in a sports cap, stonewashed jeans and a print tee. With his obvious pomposity, he addresses people by "ma'am" and "sir," asking for only a dollar at a time - so that he "could buy a hotdog." Years before, when I still lived at my parents' house, I remember he used to walk around Port Authority - though this time he was "a few dollar short of a bus ticket."
What's the point of all this? I really just wonder how much money this man has made over the years. Stereotypically speaking, one thinks that a homeless person asking for extra change will inevitably spend your hard earned money on drugs or alcohol. But how could you not? Any documentary or special I've ever seen or heard of promotes that notion.
Regardless of what Ginger Man truly collects his money for, I'm REALLY interested in how much money panhandlers make. I would love to make a documentary where I followed (or was) a homeless/panhandler as my full-time job. Just do it for a year and see if I could really make a lot of money doing it.
Here's what some people have to say on the topic:
  • I've seen a guy beg for some cash, walk into a corner and chirp on his T-mobile sidekick... this was in atlantic city LOL
  • You're talking 6 figures a year for some upperclass panhandlers... Atlantic city and basically any major casino city or famous boardwalks, they do pretty well
  • some make quite a good living.. ive heard figures of stuff from the hundreds to actually in the thousands.. there was a case some time ago when one of the famous beggar ladies here was followed, and she went in some place, changed, and drove away in her mercedes.. apparently it was all an act, and she was making some good dough too...
Particularly funny to me, was a question posted on Yahoo. Here's how the forum went down:
How much money can i make being a beggar or panhandler in San Francisco? $60,000? More?I heard you can make $50,000 or 60,000 grand all tax free, and you get free healthcare, free food, free drugs, and free shelter in the geologically most beautiful city in the USA.Should i hitchhike my way west?
  1. Not as a beggar or panhandler. Ya gotta have a schtick. There's a guy near Fisherman's Wharf that hides behind a potted bush and when people walk by he shakes the bush and yells "Aaaaaaah!" and sits back down. The tourists are amused, laugh, and usually go back to drop a buck or two for the entertainment. Same thing with the all-silver robot guy. You can't just ask for money, you have to work for it.
  • wow.
    So i have to be a talented bum?
    What's the point of working so hard to be a bum? I may as well get a real job, and not have to dwell with the rats and lice in the gutter.
Oh, people and their sense of humor. No but seriously, how much to panhandlers make and who wants to help me film a documentary about it?