I gotta get this off my chest. This could easily be in the “I got a problem with that!” segment on our podcast.
Brace for impact.
Man if you have a problem with frank speak and hard truths I implore you to turn back now. If you are a member of or have ever been a member of the PC Police, put down your weapon and slowly back away. It’s about to get seriously frank and un-PC up in here.
Here we go.
Homeless people do exist and it’s heart breaking.
Those jag-offs holding signs on freeway exits, major intersection stop lights, and in large shopping center parking lots are not homeless, are not down on their luck, and they most surely are not looking for work. How do I know that? Cause I asked them. On three out of four different occasions I encountered these goofballs with their signs claiming to want to work in exchange for various return favors, like food or clothes or shelter. My friends, it’s all a scam.
Now let me put a big disclaimer here. I have a friend who works with the homeless in Knoxville. I mean he works with them. He’s organized them, helped them ban together to publish a newspaper that they sell on the street called the Amplifier. In other words he’s doing the hard work for people who really need it and really want to work for their supper.
You probably won’t find any of the men and women this guy works with holding signs saying they will work for food. You know why, cause if they’re able they are most likely out looking for actual work.
Ok. Now on to my four new buddies in Knoxville.
So I hit the red light at an intersection not far from my house. It’s an off ramp not 200 yards from a Target, 5 Guys Burgers, and a Publix (grocery store). There were other stores in the complex but I mention those places because they were all hiring at the time. So old boy is at the stop light with his sign, “Laid off. Responsible for rent, utilities, and groceries. Please help.” I catch the red. He starts approaching my van pointing his sign at me like it was a tractor beam for my wallet. Well, I have about 3 American dollars. That won’t even get you a Happy Meal. But I thought I had something better, advice.
I roll down my window and say, “Look bro I don’t have any money but those three joints are hiring and the law says they have to accept your application. I’ll help you fill it out if you like.” Hahaha, you would have thought I called his mother a 2 dollar whore. He looked at me like he wanted to kill me.
He says, “you don’t have any money?” So he’s either hard of hearing, a distinct possibility, or he’s calling me a liar, a more distinct possibility.
“No I don’t. Do you want help or not.”
“No man. Hey there’s a cash machine right over there.”
“Yeah so what, there are three places hiring right over there.”
He walked off. I guess rent’s not due for a while.
The next contestant was at the off ramp from Interstate 40 to Lovell road. That is a major highway and byway in west Knoxville that leads to some high rent housing and serious shopping. So Homeless Hank (not his real name) has a sign that reads, “Homeless will work for food.” Now I was on the outside lane. The inside guy, a nice Mustang convertible with the top down, got the approach. I couldn’t get my window down fast enough. So Mustang guy engages this dude, offering him dinner. He actually says “hop in let’s go to O’Charleys. It’s a steak house up the street about 2 miles.” I love that joint. I almost hopped in with him. Hell if he’s paying…
But again homeless Hank must not have been too hungry because he had some terse words for Mustang guy. It was a long conversation but I could only hear the last part clearly, “come on man you ain’t got no money.” Mustang guy drives off as the light turns green and Hank looks at me. My look must have said “Tell it walking Hank” cause he did an about-face and went back to his designated begging area.
Hank liberated me. I used to feel a twinge of guilt for not giving those guys money and, to borrow a phrase from Tony, they are legion. So there is potential for a lot of guilt. Thanks to Homeless Hank I’m free at last.
Panhandler Pete almost didn’t survive his encounter with me. Literally.
Pete, again not his name, semi-snuck up on me around midnight in the parking lot of the Kroger, a grocery store in town, as I’m putting my groceries in the back of my van. I say semi because to this day I’m not sure he meant to sneak up on me. But he did and sort of cornered me, in the dead of night, between my van and another car. I reached for the first club I could feel. My trusty 3 Iron.
I felt a little better as he got closer because it was freezing cold and he was only in a t-shirt and jeans. In other words he did not appear to be hiding a gun and I felt my arm span plus my 3 iron would give me a fighting chance if he had a knife. Or he could have murdered me like a face eating zombie and took my eggs, Kroger brand granola bars (BOGO with coupon), and my golf clubs.
He kept coming and I pulled the three iron all the way out, as any middle-aged, retired, fat white man would do, and I breathed deep. My kung fu breathing must have got the message across. Pete throws up his hands and tries to calm the situation. Then he mistakenly tells me to relax. Bad move Pete, bad move.
“Relax? Relax?! You a#@h%^e! You come out of the dark and close in on someone you don’t know in the dead of night in a mostly deserted parking lot and you want me to relax!? What the *#@* do you want, and it better be quick.” I was a little surprised how fast I went from scared breathless to arrogant angry ass. Truthfully, it’s kinda how I play golf too.
Pete starts his sob story. Out of work, needs food, rent mone.. blah blah blah blah. Yeah great I know how this script reads. He points to a beat up car one row over. Says his wife and kid are in there. Can I help him out.
Now the irony of this whole situation is The Kroger was hiring. But it wasn’t subtle. There was a 30 foot long 15 foot high banner on the front of the store right next to the door. It read and I quote, “Need work? Can’t find a job? We are hiring people for all levels of work.” In smaller print it said a Kroger associate would help with the application process. The intentional and the implied message seemed obvious to me. I’m saying Stevie Wonder could have read the entire sign.
So I point to it. He turns and looks, but I honestly thought maybe he can’t read so I read it for him. He’s not feeling it. He turns back and starts into his sales pitch again. Guy must have been fired from Comcast billing department.
So now, still lingering in arrogant angry ass mode, I tell him I’ll give him the $45 I have if he’ll come inside and fill out a job application with me.
He walked away. Guess his wife and kid aren’t that cold and hungry after all.
Of course he walked away. You know why, it’s all a load of crapola that’s why. Old Boy, Homeless Hank, Pan Handler Pete, they don’t want to work. Even if they are offered money immediately, on the spot.
You know why that is? They make way more begging and they don’t have to pay taxes on it. So when you read stories of pan handlers and beggars making $50,000 to $75,000 and year, that’s all take home. If you make 75,000 you’re probably only taking home low $50s, maybe.
Read some of these. I promise you will not believe it. Panhandler makes $60,000 annually Lexington Kentucky Panhandler makes $100,000 a year Couple uses kids to make $180 an hour
The last one is a talkie (video) and probably the most shocking. Sadly, it’s not like I cherry picked these. Google panhandlers and you’ll be inundated with like stories.
Now most people who know me will say, “oh yeah he’s an arrogant sob like that, he’s not puttin on airs” so to speak. That’s accurate. We all have our crosses to bear.
However, I offer the following story in an attempt to demonstrate I am not completely without heart or discernment. Well, the heart thing, yeah cold as stone.
I was approached by Steve, (his real name, not Stevie Wonder) in the Kroger gas station in broad daylight on a Sunday afternoon. He was missing a leg, dressed like a vet, looked like a vet, and talked like a vet. He was also beat about the head and face. The sobering detail, he was younger than me and I had just retired from the military at the age of 43.
So he asks me for a little change to get downtown so he can get to a bus. He gives me no long script, plus the leg thing, so I look but I got nothing save two $10 rolls of quarters in my golf bag. As I go to unwrap them to offer up, his eyes light up. He says “No man, just one and don’t unwrap it. I can use that!” OK. Now I gotta know.
Apparently some guy up the street dotted his eye a few times. He was going to use the roll of quarters inside his fist to get some payback. I was going to explain the likelihood that he would break his own fingers or possibly his entire hand like that. Plus you know the leg thing kinda has him behind the power curve to begin with. But he did not seem to be looking for parental guidance from me, so I said good luck and blue skies to Steve and off he went. I did make him take the other roll.
Did he just work me over for $20 in quarters? Maybe. The difference is he actually wanted to go do something. That something was apparently to do an assault, but hey, life in the streets and all. Besides I walk when I play and carry my bag most of the time versus using a push cart, so he lightened my load a few lbs.
But a true panhandler would not have accepted the fact I had no paper money after seeing a bag of golf clubs next to a very junior set of clubs for my 4yr old Frank. A true panhandler would have asked why I didn’t have any paper if I had all that coin. A true panhandler is always closing, always closing.
Is there a moral to the story here? Who knows. Are there people out there holding signs who are being truthful and will work for food? I’m sure there are. Again, I’m referring to my experience with a distinct subset of so-called “homeless” people; the sign holders who only want money, not food, not work, not help.
You do what you want. All I’m saying is I don’t think there is a need to feel bad or guilty if you pray for a green light to get by Homeless Hank, or zip past a dude holding a sign asking for money in exchange for food, or if you avoid eye contact with someone begging you for a few bucks to get a coffee.
In my experience, he probably just ate, and makes more money than you and I ever will.