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Homeless People Flying a Sign

Updated on May 26, 2011

Sadness Captured

Homeless in Saint Petersburg
Homeless in Saint Petersburg
Nam Vet?
Nam Vet?
Homeless man with pet dog
Homeless man with pet dog
Not so sure....
Not so sure....

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.



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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I am all about helping someone down on their luck. My biggest problem is knowing who is a con and who really needs help. So tell me is there a way to tell the difference. Usually, if I see a family it is pretty obvious. A single woman or one with a child is also pretty obvious. In rare cases its the look on their face that tells it all. Most of us are not rich and we are killing ourselves all day to just make it. I for one bail out and support a lot of people in my family and relatives. The last thing I care to give my little bit of what is left to. Is the drunk and the addict. The man who stands in the parking lot every day but I never see him at the unemployment office and I am on my 6th job in six years. So tell me how do you know the difference, should I stop and ask them about their situation? What would help someone dealing with poverty the most? A dollar last only until you spend it.

    • profile image

      Sam Kaneaster 

      6 years ago

      I just started flying a sign on my way out the door now!Yes Ive done well!I dont spend it on beer just necessity's!I cant find a job been looking over a year! Thank god there are still sweet people out there! God Bless!!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I fly signs, quite frankly I wouldn't make it without being able to. I am also trying to go back to school so that it won't be such a struggle but there are lots of obstacles in the way. Without a stable family or social supports, getting by is a lot tougher, people underestimate this. It is very difficult with a child. I hope that I will be done with it before she grows old enough to know what is going on. Without sign flying I have no idea what would become of us.

    • mod2vint profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Jesse, I think maybe you need to reread the article! Your way off base here. And Beer is not the most nutritious choice of drinks, it alters your judgement, tastes bad, will in excess rot your liver, smells bad etc. And when you choose beer over food, clothing and a place to live, I think you have issues!!!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      The world is not just about rich and poor. People who fly signs for whatever reason, feel the stigma is worth the money. Like you says, its a judgement call on the part of the observer whether or not to give. Its the same as any monetary exchange though. The person getting the money has to 'sell' the 'product' if they want some modicum of success. The idea of asking for money is the same as the idea of selling a product, to get money. If you think having a little pride in an otherwise humiliating way of getting money is beyond your morality, then you arent a very moral person. You have found a way to capitalize on the panhandlers, complaining about how they get the money that you gladly take. I don't think I have ever seen a panhandler write an article about how they didn't like the people who gave them money, or a cheap meal, and they are obviously capable and motivated to talk about panhandling on the internet (see every previous poster).

      Homeless people drink. Migrant workers drink. Rich people and middle class people drink. Beer is cheap, and is nutritionally superior to soda and plain ole water, which are the only beverages on par cost wise. Damn those wiley hobos for buying the most cost effective beverage, that also happens to contain alcohol, which almost everyone likes. You expect too much sacrifice from a group of people already sacrificing their dignity, health, and livelyhood for their lifestyle. All you do sell stuff.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      i fly signs cause no one will hire me and im homeless....i spend the money on everything people spend money smokes, hotel, beer, movies, cell phone cards and sometimes drugs...just as if it were a daily paycheck i have to humbled to get...fort wayne, indiana

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I have been flying a sign of and on for 7 years. Since I dont have a job I cant get on a lease I am currently getting evicted from my hotel where me my husband and our18 month old son live. My husban is waiting for his disability. And paying by the week $250 a week its hard to get up $988 for a month so I can find a job and wait two three weeks for just my first check.All I really need is prayers! I ignore the people who dont know any better and yell nasty things at you or ask how much you charge. I give thanks to God for putting it in peoples hearts to help people in need. I try to give back when I can. One day I'll be able to!

    • mod2vint profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Hi Renee, sorry about your situation its ruff every where. It doesn't look like it will get better soon. Like I stated most don't mind giving a hand up but its those looking for a handout that ruin it for the truly needy people. I hope things get better for you!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I fly a sign about once a week. I'm not even homeless, I pay rent every month and live in Canada. However, after I pay my 465 a month for rent, and my 100$ for a metropass (so I can look for work and go to fly spots) After this is have exactly 15 $ left on my disability cheque. I go out to make money for groceries(where the majority of my money goes to), smokes (I feel bad for that but it gets me through the day) and honestly sometimes I DO buy beer when I feel down about my life and the way it turned out. I've tried to find employment and simply cannot because of the amount of vulgar tattoos I got as a stupid young kid. I also have physical limitations that are not visible to others. I get called a lot names when I'm out there, just trying to live and scrape by.


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