Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

‘Sociological Experiment’


I’ve noticed quite an upturn in young white homeless people – of both genders – around and about lately. That in itself is weird enough, considering general socioeconomic circumstances, but certain things about the whole setup rub me the wrong way. I mean, I grew up in New York. I know homeless people. They’re industrious – you get creative when you’re desperate – and generally congenial people, but… they do look homeless. Kinda ragged. Greasy hair, etc.

Not this bunch. It doesn’t feel right. Washed hair. Clean clothes. Something of a bored affectation, though I admit that may just be me. But for instance, there’s a girl in her 20s on Broadway and 63rd who’s been there fairly regularly since March and had a sign lately saying she was collecting to “visit her family” outta the city. Visit. Not move back. Visit! Here I’m thinking, “y’know, it’s kinda unsafe to be young, female and homeless out in the streets of New York, and you want to come back?

And then I saw this article on The Local East Village. Homeless blonde dude keeps a website chronicling his panhandling by calling it a sociological experiment and keeping records on who gives him what. From the pic, other than being sunburnt I wouldn’t mark him for homeless. Reading the article and his website, he has family in DC but prefers to beg on New York streets, and talks about sending money to support his two daughters (and, of course, web hosting for the site), one of whom is 14 months old. This really does strike me as odd. For starters, did I mention he has family in DC?

I’d imagine homelessness is a state you fall into when you have no options. Family sounds like an option! It practically sounds more like hipster street performance than actual destitution. It makes it hard for me to feel sympathetic. What am I supposed to take from this? It sounds less like “getting back on one’s feet” and more “mooching.” Like homelessness is not a transient state but a lifestyle. This is seriously outta whack, and I honestly don’t know what to make of it.


One Response to “‘Sociological Experiment’”

  1. Kamos
    on Aug 12th, 2011
    @ 12:54 am

    I live in a third world country and one of the strangest things I’ve seen while traveling in the USA was a beggar using a cell phone. As in, one moment he is begging, the next he says ‘excuse me’ to answer a call. Perhaps it is not a question of having the option to leave this social state, but of feeling it is not worth it. I mean, a beggar with a cell phone? A beggar with a website? Those guys have access to luxuries that working people don’t have in other countries. Yet, I doubt their are happier.

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