I was deee-lighted to see a story yesterday about some homeless girl in Utah who has turned panhandling into a living, even though she’s not really homeless. Apparently a T.V. crew secretly followed her around for a couple of weeks and then confronted her with some tough questions about what she was doing. She didn’t have any good answers. Then they went to her house and spoke to her parents! Whoops. So why did I take so much glee in this story?
When I moved to Seattle I noticed a lot of twentysomethings skanking around Capitol Hill and the U District asking for money. They’re usually hipster types dressed in shabby, dingy pseudo-punk clothing, pierced and dyed, and holding signs explaining their terrible predicament. A lot of times they’ve got their crap spread out all over the sidewalk (backpack, blanket, dog, walking stick, whatever). They pretend to be friendly, loudly asking for change or leftovers as you walk by, but usually they’ll say obnoxious things if you just walk on by. Sometimes their signs are cutesy: “Need money for tampons, please help” or “Let’s be honest, I just need beer money.” Ho-ho, so clever! And yet, their dogs are always well-fed and they somehow manage to have enough money for smokes. Hmmmm.
Of course, I don’t believe for a minute that these people are actually homeless. If you’re in the neighborhood enough, you’ll see them get up at the end of the day and drive off. Or you’ll see them chatting on their cellphones, not even bothering to hide it. They’re far too casual about their fakery for anyone to take it seriously, and yet I always see some schmuck give them money or leftover food as they pass by! Jesus, how gullible are you people?
At some point I began to refer to these assholes as the “faux homeless”, later shortened to “fauxmeless” (though it doesn’t sound quite right when you say it aloud.) I can’t say exactly why they do it — maybe they think it’s “ironic” or humorous, or maybe they’re just too bored and lazy to actually, you know, work for a living like everyone else. No, that’s not ironic enough. One thing’s for sure: they know it’s easy to play up the homeless thing, and if people are stupid enough to give them money, they can practically live on it. And many do.
I tried to explain about the fauxmeless once at a party. Somehow I had gotten myself surrounded by severe, militant lesbians and they had very obvious expressions of doubt and disgust on their faces — they didn’t believe that anyone would ever pretend to be homeless just to get handouts. Pshaw! Ridiculous! Only a heartless Republican MAN would say such a thing! Seriously, this is the attitude I got. I told them about all the times I’ve seen these people on their phones or driving away in their cars, and they just rolled their eyes. I even told them about reading local police reports about fauxmeless people being arrested for panhandling and being sent back to their homes in good neighborhoods. Nothing. The lesbians weren’t having any of it. Why was it so hard to believe? Was the presence of my penis affecting my credibility? Then again, maybe I wasn’t explaining it very well because the brownie had chosen that exact time to kick in and my head was suddenly full of wool. But still! (For the record, I do have two very close friends who are lesbians and they don’t think I’m crazy.)
I’m a very liberal guy, but I know that all this makes me sound like a stuffy old coot. “Get a job, hippy!” But I don’t care. These fakers are sucking help away from real homeless people who don’t have cars and cellphones and a place to live. Those people don’t have to fake anything. And this isn’t confined to young hipsters, either…there are professional panhandlers everywhere and they are very convincing. Maybe some really need help, but how can you tell? It’s a shame because they’re muddying the waters for those who are willing to help a person in need but can’t trust that it’s really needed. (Yes, I do need to know the difference.)
Anyway, that’s why the story about the Utah girl was so delicious. Sweet, sweet vindication…for me and my penis.