Monday, July 7, 2014

Thousands in Houston Ignore Man As He Begged For Help On Roadside

I'm dying but you don't care. Source
July 7, 2014 - More than 30,000 people in Houston, Texas ignored a fellow American as he pleaded for help on the side of the road during the July Fourth weekend. The 59-year old homeless man named Thomas held a sign indicating that he is homeless.

Desperate for food and water, he stood motionless in the hot sun for nine hours each day at a busy intersection in a wealthy neighborhood, Friday through Sunday, hoping that people would care enough to help a fellow human survive another day with small donations of food, water or money. Some even gave him dirty looks and flipped him off.

What Thomas got instead was indifference from thousands of uncaring Houstonians, many driving luxury vehicles such as Porches, Land Rovers, BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Cadillacs on their way to celebrate America's birthday on Friday, July 4.

Some Houstonians, on Sunday, July 6, were on their way to or from church. A small number of kind people did help with bags of food, bottles of water and some cash, but they were a tiny minority of those passing by. According to Thomas, "only about one in 2,000 drivers give anything."

"I timed it and counted cars," Thomas told Homeless Patriot on Monday. "An average of 30 cars stop at this red light. The signal changes about every minute, so that's about 1,800 cars an hour. That's over 14,000 over eight hours. Sometimes I'll stand here for 90 minutes without anybody giving me anything. Most people pretend to ignore me. Honestly, I think they'd deliberately ignore me even if I was on my back clutching my chest."

Many of the cars stopped with a few feet of Thomas. He said that "it's amazing how many people act like I'm invisible." He said that drivers who are alone in their car "often grab their cell phones and pretend they're on a call. I've seen some holding the phone upside down, they were in such a hurry to act busy as an excuse to not interact with me." Women," he said, "suddenly decide they need to fix their makeup." Those with a passenger in the car often begin a very animated conversation, sometimes pointing at something as if they're talking about it."

"I drive a Mercedes, dammit."  Image Source
The behavior of drivers seems to correlate to car types, said Thomas, but not as one might expect. "Drivers of the most expensive cars are usually the cheapest people. I get a lot more donations from working class Black Americans driving Fords than I do from rich folks driving Mercedes."

He notes that there are exceptions. "Now and then a nice person in a Mercedes or some other high-end luxury car will give me a dollar, but put that in perspective with the blue collar person who gives a dollar." In general, he says, the more expensive the car, the less likely it is that they will help. "A lot of the rich folks ignore me, but many who do glance at me look at me like I'm a bug or something."

"A lot of wealthy people hate the poor," said Thomas. "That's no secret. And my own philosophy is that nobody owes me anything. But a lot of these people give money to charities that claim to help the poor and homeless only because it gives them a nice tax deduction. So they drive past me thinking hey, I gave to United Way, or some other organization, and I don't want to deal with this guy. And I won't be able to deduct anything I hand to him. This is a shame because much of the money they give to big charities goes to pay six-figure salaries and operational costs, not to feed people who urgently need food."

Do Americans care about other Americans? "Some do, but most don’t if you judge by my experience on the streets of Houston," Thomas said. "I mean, on the Fourth of July thousands didn't give a damn about a fellow American pleading for a little help. And I'm sure that was happening to dozens of other homeless guys around Houston."

What about religious people? "Hard to say," said Thomas, who says he is Christian. "You can't always know who is or is not Christian. But most of the cars with crosses hanging from their rear view mirrors ignore me too, especially on Sundays. I guess they figure they gave at church. I think they'd rather give to enrich the church than interact with a homeless man, as Jesus would have done. I see priests, wearing their collars, stop right next to me and act like I'm not there." Thomas notes that he gets donations from Muslims, Hindus and even from people with atheist bumper stickers. "I don't think you need to be religious to feel compassion for a fellow human being," he said.

Thomas says he barely made it through the holiday weekend. Less than 10 people each day gave him anything, most of which were only a dollar. "The occasional five dollar bill really makes a difference," he said, "and to be fair there are some wealthy folks who help. Sometimes, at the end of the day, I'll only have a few dollars but a nice person will hand me a ten or twenty from a luxury car. But that's rare. I've gotten more tens from old Chevys than from new BMWs."

"On the Fourth of July," he said, "I had more donations from non-Americans than from Americans. Poor Mexicans in pickup trucks are more likely to give me a buck than a guy in a new Porsche."

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ft. Lauderdale Joins Houston As One Of America's Most Heartless Cities

April 22, 2014 - It's official: The City of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida is run by a bunch of fascist thugs who care nothing about human suffering. "Ft. Lauderdale, Florida is on the cusp of passing a new regulation that would make it illegal for anyone to store their personal things on public property," reports Think Progress. "Specifically, it would empower police to confiscate any personal possessions stored on public property, provided they have given the homeless person 24-hours notice....Last week, the City Commission gave unanimous preliminary approval to the measure, despite overwhelming opposition from local residents who testified." You can read the ordinance here.

Google Images w/caption by Rev Dan 
Well, so much for listening to the People, right? And so much for caring about the most vulnerable people in their fine city. Think Progress quotes The Sun Sentinel: "The commission’s actions were backed by business leaders who said they were looking for some controls on a situation that scares away customers and makes visitors uncomfortable." In other words, the commission is run by a bunch of ice-hearted fascists.

"The measures are just the first in a series to come before the commission," reports the Sentinel. "City staff is currently drafting ordinances that would prohibit panhandling and other solicitations at intersections, that would prohibit people from sleeping on public property, and that would restrict when, where and how often groups could set up sites to feed the homeless."

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Even Panhandlers Need To Know Business Basics

Panhandler sign funny
Source: Broke-Ass Stuart
April 8, 2014 - You don't need a degree from a fancy business school to understand the basics of sales and marketing. In fact, a lot of panhandlers understand them better than a lot of CEOs understand them. Most of us know those biz basics, either by instinct or from years of being exposed to them. Think of any company, whether a local mom-and-pop diner or McDonalds, and they all want to (1) satishy customer needs, (2) project the right image, (3) pay as few taxes as possible, (4) be in the best location available, (5) use an easy-to-understand message to tell about their products and services, (6) keep their costs down, and (7) find the perfect method of operation that will stand the test of time.

One successful panhandler, a guy named Eugene, shared his street business wisdom with writer Bill Murphy, Jr. In an article at Huffington Post, Murphy nicely outlined those steps with brief but thorough explanations. As a homeless panhandler myself, I have to say that Eugene - and Murphy - got it right.

Let's look at some of Murphy's seven strategies, with my own comments based on nine months of my own panhandling:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Homeless Vet 'Baked To Death' In NY Jail Cell

Jerome Murdough (AP/Jason DeCrow)
March 20, 2014 - On a chilly night last month, a homeless former U.S. Marine was arrested in New York City for trespassing. Jerome Murdough, 56 years old and struggling with mental illness, was asleep in the warmth of an enclosed stairwell on the roof of public housing project in Harlem. The ultimate irony: His arrest would cause him to die the following week in an overheated Rikers Island jail cell.

Four city officials, reports AP, say that Murdough's jail cell reached at least 100 degrees, likely due to malfunctioning equipment. "The officials told The Associated Press that the 56-year-old former Marine was on anti-psychotic and anti-seizure medication, which may have made him more vulnerable to heat. He also apparently did not open a small vent in his cell, as other inmates did, to let in cool air." AP quotes one anonymous official as saying, "He basically baked to death."

Jerome Murdough (AP/Family Photo)
According to the city officials, reports Think Progress, Murdough was alone into a 6-by-10 cinderblock cell at about 10.30pm on February 14, a week after his arrest. "Because he was in the mental-observation unit, he was supposed to be checked every 15 minutes as part of suicide watch, they said. But Murdough was not discovered until four hours later, at about 2.30am on February 15. He was slumped over in his bed and already dead."

Murdough was "on several medications for his mental illness and seizures," says Think Progress. His death was caused "apparently from heat stroke and dehydration after hours of overheating in a six-by-ten cell."

"Advocates for mentally ill inmates in New York," AP reports, "say the death represents the failure of the city’s justice system on almost every level: by arresting Murdough instead of finding him help, by setting bail at a prohibitive $2,500 and by not supervising him closely in what is supposed to be a special observation unit for inmates with mental illnesses."

Also See:
Rikers Island Struggles With a Surge in Violence and Mental Illness NY Times
Homeless Vet ‘Bakes to Death’ in Jail: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know Heavy
Rikers prison guards cleared of inmate beating charges New York Post
Rikers Island inmates use toilet to break cinderblock cell walls in escape attempt NY Daily News

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Houston Billboard and Art Exhibit Remind Us That Homeless Are Human Too

Voice of the Homeless billboard in Houston
Photo at Glasstire.com
Sept. 15, 2013 - There is a somber billboard in downtown Houston that says, “EVEN THE PIGEONS DON’T SEE ME ~ voice of the homeless.”

The purpose of the billboard, which debuted on September 5 along Interstate 45 near Velasco Street, is to raise awareness about the homeless, who are badly discriminated against by Houston's city government. The billboard, reports Paula Newton at Glasstire.com, "is a project by artist Jessica Crute in conjunction with a group show at Deborah Colton Gallery called Collective Identity."

The Deborah Colton Gallery's website notes that the Collective Identity exhibit "aims to emphasize the notion that we are all fragile human beings; whether it be through the loss of a job or the stress of transitional social and education activities, we may all be one step removed from being in a situation where we lose our sense of self and subsequently our sense of place."

"This minimalist public art installation will be juxtaposed against Houston’s urban landscape and will be seen by thousands of commuters everyday, imparting it’s message of awareness," says the Voice of the Homeless website. "Lining the Houston skyline with the words of those who are without a home, the public space billboard seeks to humanize the issue of homelessness and to create a platform through which the voice of the homeless may be heard."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Why She Gave Me Money - And Took My Photo

Panhandler with sign for BMW fund
Homeless Patriot uses humor in
his panhandling sign in Houston
Photo credit: Kate Good
August 22, 2013 - Many thanks to the magnificent Kate Good for her heart-warming blog post about me two days ago. I encountered Kate while panhandling in Houston, Texas on a sunny Tuesday morning. The brief time we had to chat, a few seconds really as she waited for the traffic signal to change, was uplifting. Kate is a nationally recognized speaker.

Titled "The Unexpected Email I Received From A Panhanlder Today," Kate wrote this:

"Today, my view of a panhandler changed when one of them emailed me. For the first time in many years I have a morning routine that includes driving the same route each morning.  At one high profile corner there have been two panhandlers who are friendly and creative with their signs. One morning I whipped through the light and saw the sign out of the corner of my eye. The gentleman was asking for money for his BMW fund.  I found this to be an example of the strength of the Houston economy and if I were not late for a meeting I would have made a u-turn and snapped a picture for my Facebook status update."

FOR MY
BMW FUND!
Keep Me Alive and Fighting!

Kate Good's post about me has lifted my spirits and encouraged me to continue my strategy of out-of-the-box "marketing" of myself. Panhandling for money, yes, out of a need to eat. Creating unusual signs, you bet, out of a need to market myself to potential employers. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

Also See:
Even Panhandlers Need To Know Business Basics