Making better panhandling signs for a homeless man


The Mt Holly Mayor posted some photos of signs his friend made for a fellow named Ed who is out of work. Ed says the signs are working!

My pal, and frequent Mt. Holly tourist, Todd Norem ( created these media appropriate and proven effective outdoor boards for his client Ed who reported at least a 800% increase in gross income on days his media ran.
See other signs at the link. Pan Handling Competition is Running Hot in Minneapolis


  1. This might be kinda sick, but could someone please bang out a sign generator for this picture.

  2. Sorry, I had nothing to do with this (aside from tossing some change in Ed’s basket). I am just a fan of Todd’s work. Gotta give credit where credit is due!

  3. MayorMike, do you know what Ed used to do for a living?

    I’m not going to bother soapboxing homeless issues, but I am curious to know what his skills set is. Whatever his case may be, I hope Ed can get back in the game and get his life where he wants it to be soon.

  4. Best homeless sign I’ve seen: “Could you give it up?”

    I like the existential ambiguity of that. Was he asking if I could give him something? Or was he asking if I could let it all go?

  5. My favorite ever ‘homeless’ guy sign was one that said please give so I can help my sister, mother aunt, father-n-laws brother, parrot’s groomer, & a couple of other different relations, all crossed off except the last one. A truly entertaining, honest piece of street theatre, worth 5 bucks to me, 20 years ago. The guy was there most days of the week, probably had an apartment somewhere he was paying for by begging.

  6. I have been dieing for Mythbusters to tackle my favorite myth.

    And that’s the idea that a lot of homeless are actually wealthy people who make hundreds of dollars a day standing on street corners dressed as a bum, and then they fold up the sign, jump into their new car and go back to their houses.

    My dad believed this 100 percent, and I’ve always known it to be hogwash but I know lots of people who are like “He probably makes more than I do in a day just sitting there”

    I always pictured the show as a competition where they beg in disguise, but after many times of e-mailing them the idea I would settle on anybody actually investigating how much people are willing to give up to a guy on the street in one day.

    So what is that 800 percent figure…

  7. Jay acker @ 8 – i read “I have been dieting for Mythbusters to tackle my favorite myth.”~ which intrigued me…

    Youngsters! (you know who you are…)
    die > dying,
    dye > dyeing


  8. @Jay Acker: A friend of mine did a Buddhist street retreat last year, in which she spent a week on the street to experience the homeless life with a sign and a paper cup. She had so many wonderful things to share about her experience, and this doesn’t do it justice at all. But to answer your question, while YRMV, even in a very high traffic area of the city, it would be very difficult to even approach minimum wage by asking for spare change, let alone get rich.

  9. The homeless aren’t rich. What they are is, for the most part, mentally ill with co-occurring substance abuse issues.

    Giving them funnier signs (or money, for that matter) is unhelpful.

  10. “Hey, Table Legs. why don’t we by some motherfucking shoes and see how long those motherfuckers last.” SOMA , 1989

  11. I heard reports of one sign today in the Denver area that said “Spaceship crashed! Need $$$ for parts.”

  12. jayreeder,

    sorry, i don’t find giving someone money (what little I can give) to be unhelpful, AT ALL. Most are gracious, and quickly enter the closest food establishment to eat. OR i take them in and buy them food myself.

    NOONE should go hungry. so sad.

  13. @#8: Jay Acker

    Speaking as a formerly homeless person, I can pretty definitively say your dad was wrong. Depending on your technique you can stand to make between $1/day and $100/day panhandling. Sitting there passively with a sign usually gets you closer to $1/day, whereas harassing people, getting in their face and annoying them until they pay you to stop will get you closer to the $100/day figure. In my experiences, the only people willing to be that annoying are crackheads and people with substance abuse problems so severe they no longer care what impression they make and how many people punch them in the face in a given day. In my two years of street life I never met a panhandler who didn’t need to stoop that low to get money. I only ever met one or two people who had homes, one was a pregnant girl who was legitimately saving up for rent, one was a spoiled hippie whose parents were rich yet she decided to rebel. By my estimation, at least 95% of people begging on the streets are there due to substance abuse, mental health problems, or severe domestic abuse as children (which make up at least 90% of the teenagers and young adults I met on the street).

    It’s a terrible situation to be in, and often at the end of the day these people don’t make enough money to feed themselves or satiate their drug habits (which can be more harmful than lack of food).

  14. anon 16: “at least 95% of people begging on the streets are there due to substance abuse, mental health problems, or severe domestic abuse as children (which make up at least 90% of the teenagers and young adults I met on the street).

    Often all three. From my experience at places like methadone clinics most of these people are good, honest, reasonably intelligent folk who have sets of problems that rendered them unable to be helped. And it isn’t really their fault.

    Sucks when people act like there is a clear cut choice, or that it is a somehow desirable existence.

  15. The whole “I bet that homeless beggar makes more than I do” meme always gets me angry.

    Really? If they really had enough money to live comfortably, would they really choose to do this all day?

    I have a conservative christian relative who believes this 100%. Apparently his minister based a sermon on this well known fact, the moral of which was “Don’t feel guilty about not giving money to the poor. Chances are, they’re just pretending to be poor anyway.”

  16. my social issues teacher freshmen year had statistics that said some homeless in major cities can make UP TO 40k a year although most make much much less.

  17. @anon #19: Your teacher’s statistics were wrong. In fact, the homeless have UNLIMITED income potential. There is no salary cap in this street-level, hands-on entrepreneurial model!

    And yes, most make much, MUCH less.

  18. “He probably makes more than I do in a day just sitting there”

    That sure sounds like something you tell yourself to justify being stingy.

    I have known musicians who averaged about $10/hour playing on the streets, but 1.) they were pretty good musicians, and 2.) they were in very touristy spots, with lots of foot traffic. Consider how much less a simple panhandler would make with no musical (or other) performance, on an average street. People are far more willing to give to a performer than a straight beggar.

    If this guy can increase his “revenue stream” with comedy signs, great– it made me laugh, that’s worth some change at least.

  19. I dislike giving cash to panhandlers.I give restaurant food coupon booklets for McDonalds or Wendy’s. (making sure the place is less than a few blocks walk from the location of the needy person) They can get a hot coffee or some food and use the facilities for a while. During hot summer months I give cold bottled water, sometimes in the winter I’ll hand them a bag of thick socks.

  20. Anyone who believes that the homeless are human must not just drop some change but should visit an ATM and drop serious money on panhandlers.

    There are few experiences so bad as the feeling of chronic hunger, it stops being a grumble tummy thing and it becomes more of a cutting feeling as you can actually feel your body eating into itself, that and the feeling of being cold all the time as you body reduces its caloric burn. Looking at overweight people or people loading groceries can lead to moments of internal rage as you imagine these people going home to a warm home and eating good food as you freeze and starve.

    But the truly poor have other needs than just food, so stopping and dropping off a burrito is not enough. If you want to give something other than cash ask the panhandler what they need, how would you feel if your job gave you a burrito, how could you afford new shoes with a burrito?!

    Thinking about selling some backpacking at a second hand store? Think again! there is someone who needs that coat or sleeping bag and will field test it much better than your mountaineering expeditions ever did.

    Never think the cash in your pocket is somehow yours by right, yes you might have worked a job for it, but the poor are out there just so you CAN give to them in an honorable way. Think about your karma count. Why were you motivated, strong, and skilled enough to land that good job and show up every day? You have to pass a good percentage that good life along.

    An incomplete list of things the homeless need:
    A warm safe home
    warm food with enough nutrition to satisfy the body
    cash, the universal exchange especially in emergencies
    good dry shoes and socks
    warm long waterproof quick drying coat in winter(also to sleep in)
    A safe place to stash gear during the day
    A mechanically sound bicycle
    camping gear especially a sleeping bag and way to stay dry and off the cold cement or mud

    The homeless really need way to avoid police and citizen harassment especially when doing normal but illegal human things like:
    washing up
    preparing food
    making love
    Show some kindness if the less fortunate make your life difficult trying to do the things you can easily do in your home every day.

    All of this is to remind BB readers and their friends that YOU have a responsibility being born human and having the means to support your brothers and sisters in an honorable way.

  21. I really appreciate all of the attention this is getting. The Art Director, and my equal partner, was Liz Otremba.

    As far as the subject matter, Ed is a great guy, who, by a series of misfortunes, found himself asking for assistance. He is not a drunk, nor does he fit the stereotype many automatically assign him. During the project he freely offered me beers that people gave him, and seemed to understand perfectly how creative advertising could benefit him.

  22. Seems to me that there are too many people.

    If each and every one of us refuses to procreate, we will have done something for the future of homelessness.

    Spread the word: No More Babies.

  23. JIMH replied:

    @anon #19: Your teacher’s statistics were wrong. In fact, the homeless have UNLIMITED income potential. There is no salary cap in this street-level, hands-on entrepreneurial model!

    That is, of course, until Congress decides to investigate these so-called homeless and they fly in on their private jets! Then Pelosi, Reid, et al will demand their pound of flesh and impose a salary cap and 95% taxes on any windfall these folks enjoy…

  24. I thought I recognized this guy. I pass by him almost daily over on Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis. While I haven’t had a lengthy conversation with him, he’s always come off as a very kind guy. Kudos to those helping him out!

  25. WOW – the comments on boingboing are an order of magnitude better than the “Get a job/they earn more than me” comments on the original site (which I read first). Faith in humanity restored – huzzah!

  26. ill add to this topic since ive been homeless for the last 2 years. yes once upon a time we made enough to do more than just get by. we were able to live decently comfortable. now that 2009 is here all money is gone. your lucky alot of times if you can get $30 together in a day. Incomes down prices are up, and frankly COPS are assholes. most cities consider panhandling a big problem, they dont like untaxed income.

    If you want to make money these days (hate to say this) you must get a job.

  27. i have taken in homeless people recently and learned they are not all drinkers just tired and in need of a shower and some fresh clothing so dont be afraid to give they are risking their freedom just to eat!dont want to give them money?give food or clothing or camping equipment and remember to smile and say im just doing god a favor today.thank you

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