Archives for homelessness



Question of the Day: Why Don’t Companies Advertise on Homeless People?

Callum Linley, an 18-year-old reader from Melbourne, Australia, writes to say:

So why aren’t there companies lining up to advertise on homeless people?

My guess is it’s an image problem – not wanting to be associated with the “failure” of being homeless. But wouldn’t that be compensated by the fact you could put forward the idea that you are a socially responsible and sympathetic company who cares for the less fortunate?

Well, the world already has given us Bumvertising and homeless people as wi-fi hotspots, and I wouldn’t be surprised if homeless advertising has shown up on TV (hey Simpsons and Family Guy and South Park fans etc., let us know). But how would you answer Callum’s question?  Does it fall into the category of:

a) Questions that are so obvious that they don’t need an answer; or

b) Questions that should be asked more often, but aren’t; or

c) Something else entirely.



The Most Valuable Train Ticket Ever?

A very good report on WNYC by Sarah Gonzalez about the homeless people who live in New Jersey train stations, and how they’re generally allowed to stay as long as they have a valid train ticket:

“I have a ticket, okay. This is what you need to have to stay in,” [John] Williams says. “If you doesn’t have that you’re going to have to go out in the cold.”

He doesn’t need to buy a train ticket every night in order to sleep on the benches.  

“No I don’t buy a ticket every night. I buy a ticket one time, as long as it’s not punched it’s good. As long as it doesn’t have a hole in it. I done had this for two months.”

Once you’re on a train, conductors, which cost taxpayers about $30 million a year, come by with a hole-puncher, manually punching two holes in every passenger’s ticket.

If you never get on a train to get your ticket punched, your ticket will never expire.

Some of the homeless people at Newark Penn Station have been there for years. One has been at the station for 19 years; another for 26 years.



Exchange Economies

A friend of ours had her purse, containing her driver’s license and passport, stolen in a German train station. She reported it to the local police, who told her that she may well get the purse back — minus any cash. Homeless people in the stations troll the trash bins for food and other goodies. When they find purses, wallets, etc., they turn them over to station police. In exchange the police do not roust them out of the stations, which they use for shelter and warmth. In fact, the police were right — the friend did eventually get some of the lost items back.



Advancements in Panhandling: Don’t Forget to Feed the Meter

Back in 2006, I wrote a Newsweek article about the problems that warm-weather cities like Orlando and Las Vegas were having with their homeless populations, and the rather creative methods they were using to control them — namely banning public feedings and consigning all panhandling to 3-by-15-foot “panhandling zones” painted on sidewalks.

Turns out the solutions have only gotten more creative in the last few years. The newest innovation are “homeless meters,” repurposed parking meters — painted a different color and set back from the street — that people can deposit coins into rather than give spare change to panhandlers. Cities then donate the collected money to nonprofit groups, which in turn use the funds to buy things like bus tickets. Advocates say this cuts down on the abuse of funds, and ensures that donations are put to the best use. Read More »