Homeless People Flying a Sign
Homeless People Make Money
Flying a sign is how most homeless people make money. The homeless call it going to work. They are out there every day on almost every lighted intersection in the area. Some corners have as many as 6 people flying their signs in thirty minute shifts. The signs display various statements such as, homeless, out of work, will work for food, why lie I need a beer, and so on. Each has his or her own story, some true and some a big scam.
Our local paper did a big article a few months back interviewing several of the local homeless men and women. Some of these folks I know from them frequenting my retail establishment. Some I know by name some by face. The article was not what the reporter led them to believe. They all told their secrets of flying and what techniques they think works to make others feel sorry for them and hand over the payload.
The paper tells the story of several homeless panhandlers like an elderly African American man who wears a hat for the air force but his sign quotes the marine motto "Semper-Fi" and he claims to be a Nam Vet. Then there is Cliff who states " Panhandling isn't just a job, its an art." Cliff hasn't worked a single day since he got out of prison two years ago.
All will tell you "You have to know the rules."
Local Police say stay on the side walk, do not approach the cars unless they call you over.
The Homeless panhandlers say: Try to make eye contact, don't smoke, drink beer or scratch yourself. Don't wipe your nose on your sleeve or pick at your scabs. Its a must to look friendly but not happy (your suppose to be hurting). People in the junker cars give the most, I guess they can relate, just a little. Women give more than men, and women fliers make more than men.
Saint Petersburg has a lot of rules and you better know them and follow them or you get a free ride to the 49Th Street Motel (jail). No Flying before sunrise, no flying after sunset. Do not hang out under the overpass or your loitering. Do not approach the cars. Do not yell out or verbally ask for anything, your sign has to do the talking. And your sign can't be generically needy you must be specific about you story," Like Stranded trying to get Home" or "Out of Work and Hungry", something along those lines.
Now St. Petersburgs new Mayor and one city councilmen want to make it against the law for you to hand anything to the panhandler. They can't stop them even with all their rules, from flying the sign, Its their constitutional right covered by the 1st Amendment Freedom of Speech. So they want to try and stop folks from giving the handout.
Everyday I see a couple dozen homeless people come in to my store they all save $2.14 from the previous days take to buy breakfast. They get either 2 biscuits and sausage gravy or they get eggs sausage grits and toast. When a new comer moves into the are they are all told about our breakfast and told to make sure they save their $2.14 They come in all hours of the day to buy beer and cigarettes and some will come for lunch (not many). Most smell awful and wear the dirtiest of clothes carrying all their belongings in a backpack. Some brag about how much money they made for the day and if true they have no reason to sleep on the streets. These folks are hard to feel sorry for and I have to say I don't. Beer rules their lives.
Now when you read about the family who came here from out of state on a promise of a job that never happens. Their savings runs out and the state takes their kids and charges them with child abuse. Or the family who is just making it paying their rent every month and doing without the extras. Just to have the sheriff come and serve them with an eviction notice because the homeowner/land lord lost the house for not paying the mortgage. These are the people who are not there by choice. These are people who want a hand-up not a handout. These are the people that most of us don't mind giving a helping hand to. These are the people that the tent cities are made for.
When you see the panhandler flying their sign, keep in mind, some are lying some are not and ultimately its your decision weather to hand out any money. When I see them I think of the people who frequent my store and its hard for me, because I know that most are just playing us like a fool. But then I try to remember some of them really need and appreciate any helping hand we can give.