I am not a homeless person, but I’ve been told that I do have that ‘look’ so I could probably pass for one if need be.
If I were to spend 40 hours a week standing just outside the exit of a Wal-Mart, asking every person that walked out of the building for money, how much of a salary do you suppose I could earn? It would seem to me that I could easily make more than the people working inside, and it would be an approximately equally degrading experience.
What if I were to fabricate a slotted wooden box with a lock on it and said I was collecting for some charity, such as children with AIDS. How much could I expect to earn then?
Not much. By definition, aren’t people who shop at Wal-Mart Cheap Bastids?
And you’re quite sure this isn’t, uhm, illegal?
To stand on Wal-Mart property and try to sell anything or get donations, you have to have permission of the manager on duty. At least it was that way about ten years ago when I would camp out up there and sell candy for school.
Second, actually going up to a person and asking for the money may be illegal depending on your state or city. When I was in Denver a few years ago, we were told that if a person came up asking for money they were breaking the law. Apparently they could just stand there with their hand out and be okay, though.
Third, also while I was in Denver, the news stations were doing stories about one of the beggars. Turns out he was fairly well-off, or at least could support himself through his day-job, but still went begging. Even after a ton of these stories where his face was shown on TV, people were still giving him money. He must have found begging too profitable to stop because of a little public humiliation.
Sorry, no specific cite, but I remember reading an article a while back where a couple of guys with jobs went out begging part-time, and made the hourly equivalent of a 40-50k annual salary collecting from strangers. :dubious:
The classic Sherlock Holmes story “The Man with the Twisted Lip” featured more or less this premise. An upper-middle class man lost his City (ie: financial) job, out of desperation posed as a begger, and discovered that he could support his wife, family and servents on his earnings. This continued for years, until he got wrongfully arrested for murder, whereupon Holmes had to straighten out the mess.
In one filmed treatment of the story (the Jeremy Brett series), he disclosed his annual earnings, and Watson, incredulous, declares “But that’s a gentleman’s income!” The line isn’t in the original story, but accurately reflects the situation as described.
I have no idea whether it would be possible to earn such an income solely through begging today – or for that matter, in 1885.
And while we’re on literary references, one of the chapters in Stephen King’s “Hearts in Atlantis” is about a man who poses as a beggar…
Not exactly a begger, per say, but I saw an article in one of the DC newspapers years ago about a guy who stationed himself outside the Smithsonian metro station in DC and gave out maps and directions to tourists for voluntary donations. Aparently he was making a desent middle class income from this, with a house in the suburbs and all, he’d been doing it for years. I saw him down there once or twice and he was clean, polite and helpful, he had become someything of an institution on the mall. For all I know he’s doing it still, any DC dopers know if he’s still there?