Documentary on Homeless Man Given $100,000.

The documentary is called “Reversal of Fortune” and played on Showtime, I think. I recorded it, but it ended at an odd time, such as 7:05, so I missed the last couple minutes.

Did anyone see it? What happened at the end? Last I saw he had bought a car for his new girlfriend (after he bought a car for his buddy and then a new Dodge Ram for himself).

Has there been much commentary on this? The point of view of the producers, etc.

It was exquisitely painful to watch his man refuse all advice and squander this once in a lifetime chance to turn his life around. Thought I did not see until the end, one got the sense that he was homeless for a reason: at his core, the guy did not want to get a job and live a life where you have to show up.

Most people who become homeless do not stay homeless for long. Of the “chronically homeless”, people who remain homeless for extended periods of time, most of them have mental disorders that render them unable to function in normal society. Some people just cannot handle having a house and a car and a job and bills. The pressure is too much for them, or they have substance abuse problems, or mental illness. Others simply don’t like sleeping between walls, or having a 9-to-5, or living a “modern” lifestyle. They prefer being free spirits, and if you’ve ever spent any time with hippies or Rainbow Children, you’ll discover how such a lifestyle can be very seductive.

So what was the point of this documentary? Was this man chronically homeless? If he was, just giving him money is unlikely to solve his problems. Money doesn’t make mental illness or alcoholism disappear, or make you enjoy the rat race. Money doesn’t make walls any less suffocating, or take away the enticement of the open road. Just not having money isn’t what makes you chronically homeless. It doesn’t sound like to me the producers were doing this man any favors, or really addressing his problems at all. If they truly wanted to see what might raise a man from chronic homelessness, they could’ve tried admitting him to rehab, or getting him psychiatric treatment, if he was an addict or mentally ill.

I didn’t see it, but it doesn’t sound like the producers necessarily wanted to rescue this guy. They just gave him money to see what he would do. Their purpose was to make a documentary, not to save a soul. A hundred thousand dollars will buy you some time in a rehab center, or mental hospital, or MICA program. He didn’t get completely exploited.

This will be on again, and I’ve set the Tivo. Looks interesting.

Slight hijack, but do you know people who’ve come into money? What did they do with it?

I don’t know anyone whose life was changed by sudden wealth, or near-wealth. People who were savers saved it, spenders spent it, helpers helped with it.

If the 100K was paid in installments, it might have given the guy some time to consider alternatives. That I’d like to see.

I think some people are made uncomfortable by sudden change, and they do their best to get back to their original situation as quickly as possible. Change brings anxiety.

The producers had him meet with a homeless advocate soon after he received the money, and then a financial planner once he had moved back near his family. He has three hardworking sister who tried to give him really sound advice (from the perspective of a working person with a family).

I have done a lot of work as a counselor, and this guy did not seem mentally ill, but rather suffered from a mild personality disorder – slightly bi-polar, often dysthymic, mildly depressed, etc.

I agree with others here: he needed lots of therapy, even psychiatric intervention. This may be a moral tale regarding welfare: if we don’t back up handouts with counseling, we aren’t really going to change anything. (I wonder if we need to send 10,000 therapists to Iraq)

I have met many people who came into lots of money from sudden success (I live in LA). From what I can see, the greatest predictor whether they will handle it well is a good marriage with children.

For every statement, there’s an atecdote to demonstrate the opposite, and mine is nice and long.

When I was a kid, I had a friend who came from a large family. She had six brothers and sisters already, and told me her parents’ goal was to have an even dozen.* Having a big family can be a wonderful experience, I’m told, but it helps if you take care of the kids you already have and work to support them.

The father of this group came from money–snobby money-- and as a result, the notion of actually working was morally repugnant to him. Unfortunately, his family had not approved of his dowdy, dim-witted wife and so they wouldn’t financially support him. (He told this tale to anyone who would listen, and tried to make it sound grandly romantic. Perhaps it would have been if his choice of brides had been intelligent, or charming, or warm-hearted, or funny or even pretty. )

They lived in a state of semi-poverty as the father bounced from one get-rich-quick scheme** to the next and the mother told their tale of romantic and financial woe to various churches. The churches would support them for a while with donations of money or food (their garage looked like a Sam’s Club) until they finally figured out that this family wasn’t ever intending to get back on its feet. Then, they’d move on to the next church.

Anyway, the husband’s grandmother died and left them a nice bundle of cash. They used it on a big vacation and about a dozen get-rich-quick projects that they never seemed to get working on. One of them was a selection of wrecked cars. Each was a once-expensive model which would need serious work to be road worthy again. The dad’s plan (and by the way, he knew nothing about fixing cars) was to fix them up and sell them. He anticipated that each would sell for slightly under their original sticker price-- meaning they would have actually appreciated from this experience-- after he had fixed them up. (I honestly imagine him picturing himself skipping out to the yard with a wrench and a can of WD-40 and then strolling back into the house an hour later leaving a pristine automobile in his wake. The scenes between would be represented only by a question mark, I suppose)

The second scheme was a big tent. You know, those white tents that are used for outdoor events? They have clear patches in the shapes of windows along the sides? Yeah, one of those. He bought one and set it up in his backyard, and planned to host weddings there. Yeah, in his un-mowed, un-lanscaped, un-shaded yard, facing the back of his badly-needs-painted house with its filthy doorframe. Did I mention it’s next door to a dog kennel? I guess on the plus side, there would have been plenty of parking between the junked cars in the front yard.***

They also invested in some sort of telephone long-distance selling scam which required a large chunk of money up front and check for the promised returns was always coming soon.

The father forgot that he needed to buy parts for the wrecked cars before he spent all the money. This all happened in 1996. I drove by there a couple of months ago, and those cars are still sitting there, peaceably rusting and returning thus to the earth from whence they came.

  • I saw them a few months ago with cildren I didn’t recognize, so I’m pretty sure they’re up to eight or nine kids now.

** The last time I saw them, it was Amway.

*** The tent was destroyed, aptly enough, by a Finger Of God. A friend who witnessed its demise swore on all she held holy that the sky had opened and a slim tornado had decended onto the tent, dissipating as soon as it had been rendered into a pile of bent poles and shredded plastic. I can testify to seeing the poles, which were, indeed bent. As to whether God struck the tent dead, I cannot say, but I do like to believe it.

I watched the first part and the last part, so maybe I shouldn’t post until I’ve seen the middle, but I’m here now. :slight_smile:

Did what I missed include anything about the man’s history? Had he ever held a steady job? Did he have any skills? He mentioned getting his toolbox back and getting a construction job.

His negative attitude is his biggest problem. Doesn’t he realize that it’s not just him – everybody gets put on hold, has to stand in line, pay traffic fines, fill out paperwork, etc.?

He acted like it was a chore, just having to listen to people who were trying to help him. “I can’t deal with this! All you people giving me advice, it’s too much!” He needed a smack.

Did he even call a dentist? Who died his hair and gave him that mullet?

He reminded me a bit of one of the kids on the PBS show last year, the one about life in the “hollers”. That kid and this man are stuck in their comfort zones, and I got no clue how they can get out.

The way out for him would be intensive cognitive therapy and lithium.

Neat story Lissa.

The OP sounds like a way to make a very interesting movie. A very cruel way to make an interesting movie.

I wonder what the filmmakers were hoping for. Would they have been disappointed if the guy had made good decisions?