July 15, 2002
9:21 PM   Subscribe

Blogging while "homeless" - two Seattle guys just spent a week pretending to be homeless. They claim this newspaper article heavily misquoted them, but they are getting various flak in their message forums. A worthwhile project or were they just jealous of the Seattle Star Wars fans?
posted by gluechunk (18 comments total)
I think it was worth it if they can now empathize with homeless people but after reading their journals, I don't think they succeeded. They made little effort to get to know the homeless people around them. They kept to themselves and maintained a holier-than-thou attitude about the people they saw. One of them even said that if he were homeless it would be very easy to get out of that situation. A bit simple-minded if you ask me.

Thanks for the link gluechunk.
posted by jaden at 12:16 AM on July 16, 2002

jaden said just what I was thinking...could've been a worthwhile exercise if they had some empathy and a goal; no interaction with the folk rings a little shallow.
posted by Mack Twain at 12:28 AM on July 16, 2002

Jaden: You are describing what the newspaper article said; I thought the journals seemed to tell a different story. They did have interaction with the people around them, and they wrote about it in the journal. I didn't think either of them said that it was "easy to get out of that situation."

I do think people are judging them awfully harshly. It's clear they learned a lot more than they expected to and it was probably a life-changing experience.

Bias warning: one of these guys was a student of mine a few years ago. :)
posted by litlnemo at 2:54 AM on July 16, 2002

Photos from Tesugen Glasman's Street Retreat. (He also does retreats at Auschwitz.
posted by sheauga at 3:54 AM on July 16, 2002

Here's another perspective on the story, and it's not kind.
posted by litlnemo at 3:59 AM on July 16, 2002

Who in their right mind thinks that walking in black socks won't give you blisters? I'm with you ed, I also think that this was a good idea gone wrong.

I had a friend who did something like this in the late 80's early 90's , but he went to Goodwill with less than $10 came out with a trenchcoat, thick mis-matched socks, a sweater, a t-shirt and some old boots. He stayed out on the street for 6 weeks. He said that it doesn't really sink in until the 5th week. He came back with a couple of cuts and some stories. The whole purpose for him, was for a job. He works with the homeless.
posted by mkelley at 6:23 AM on July 16, 2002

Clark's sign read "This sign is for sale: $2." Printed on Weeks' sign was, "Will be coldly ignored: 25c."

As Chris Rock says: If a homeless person has a funny sign, he hasn't been homeless for that long. A real homeless person is too hungry to be funny.
posted by Jaybo at 6:54 AM on July 16, 2002

I tried to do this first and foremost to gain an understanding of a situation that I see from one side. My side of the tracks. I wanted to try to flip my perspective and get some empathy and maybe actually understand a little bit better what it means to be homeless.

By doing this, Scotty and I also raised some much needed money for a local charity, www.boomtowncafe.org, and tried to bring a few people along with us via web and media to try to show them second hand a bit of what we experienced.

People can debate all day the "purism" or lack there of by only doing it for a week. We knew that having a website was beyond the luxuries of homelessness, but it was a necessary need to document things the way we wanted to document.

In the end, I'm glad people are talking about it, even if the message got a bit warped by the media. I tried to learn something, teach my self some empathy and understanding, I tried to teach myself something instead of just closing my mind to it.

Maybe someone else will think twice on what they do in their lives because of thinking about our project, maybe someone somewhere will show a little kindness, or help out somewhere. that would be great.

posted by derrickito at 1:05 PM on July 16, 2002

I've been friends with lots of homeless people for years. A lot of homeless people use the internet and have websites and email lists and are smart and can read and write and don't use drugs. The internet is a wonderful way for people who don't have addresses to stay in contact with each other.

The thing about being a homeless activist is that some homeless people are smarter and better grounded than you are. Some peopel may need help getting certain things, and some are just fine. There is nothing to know, except that people have different needs, and when you can help someone you should.
posted by goneill at 1:56 PM on July 16, 2002

litlnemo: I didn't think either of them said that it was "easy to get out of that situation."

I have drive, skills and I'm reasonably fee of any debilitating mental disorders so, if I really were in this spot I could pull myself out rather quickly.

It sounds to me that's exactly what he's saying.

litlnemo: They did have interaction with the people around them, and they wrote about it in the journal

I agree they had a lot of interaction with homeless people, but there was an air of superiority in what they wrote (the above quote is a perfect example). They knew that they weren't really homeless, just trying it out for an experiment. By no means am I saying it was a dismal failure, just that there is plenty of room for improvement.
posted by jaden at 2:44 PM on July 16, 2002

ahh critics are so fun:)

failure? by no means! i lived it, i hung out with, ate with, worked with, and opened my eyes up to realities that i knew where there, but had never experienced firsthand.

thats a success in my eyes. if it makes anyone else think about the subject, than i think it was a success in that aspect also.

i didnt expect to change the world, i wanted to learn something by walking in someone elses shoes.

there was only so far we could take the project knowing we had an "out", but still, WE TRIED :)


(by the way, does "litlnemo" teach at the Art Institute of Seattle? HTML? )
posted by derrickito at 2:54 PM on July 16, 2002

ahh. yes.. i just read her first post,
off topic here, but i think its rather funny that i got a nice fat D in your class, and i now design and do front end for a living:)

thanks for sticking up for us though!
posted by derrickito at 3:02 PM on July 16, 2002

we had an "out", but still, WE TRIED

You had more than an out. On your site you mention that you did this without the help of friends. But you did have the help of each other. And you were in a location very familiar to you. How about each of you going to a separate city, one that you haven't spent too much time in before?
posted by gluechunk at 3:35 PM on July 16, 2002

You see, Derrick, grades don't measure potential, ability, or anything useful like that. Only whether you showed up every week and turned in all the work on time. :) But that's another topic entirely. (Don't get me started. I hate grades and grading and would prefer not to give grades at all, but AIS requires me to do so -- and to automatically figure attendance into the grade as well.)

At any rate, I agree that if the project made people think about these issues, that it was a success. How many people -- even the ones who got riled up about it -- changed their behavior because of this? Maybe they donated money that they wouldn't have thought to donate otherwise, maybe they gave food... maybe the next time they see a homeless person on the street they will look at them instead of through them.

Admittedly, some of the stuff on the website could be seen as insensitive. The names for the levels on the BBS, for example -- "Vagrant," "Wino," etc. Those don't show much empathy. The logo featuring a spilled wine bottle, ditto. (Many homeless people aren't winos, of course.) But I don't assume that you are evil idiots for having been thoughtless occasionally or for having a sick sense of humor. You gotta know when to use it, though.

gluechunk, I think that being in their own city provided an additional layer of difficulty, actually, that is quite realistic. One of them mentioned somewhere the shame aspect of being homeless. I would think that would be stronger in one's own city, where your friends, ex-girlfriends, bosses, former teachers :) , etc. could see you panhandling and walking around in stinky old clothes. I'm certain that many homeless people feel shame in their circumstances and that must make it even harder to deal with.

It might have been more of a "camping trip" (as an unsoliticed e-mailer said to me today) if it had been to another city -- after all, who cares if you look bad to people you will never see again?

Besides, while they may live in Seattle, I bet they didn't know much about where to sleep outdoors, etc. It's not as if the locals all know how to be homeless.
posted by litlnemo at 4:00 PM on July 16, 2002

hey, goneill, i've got an idea:

waddaya say the two of us take some time off work, put on blackface, and rent a furnished room someplace just off 125th street. we'll eat only fried chicken and watermelons, wear only fubu and tommy hilfiger gear, and drink only malt liquor and kool-aid. as far as earning money goes, i'll sell crack and you can just have some babies and go on welfare. as long as we carefully avoid getting to know anybody else in our neighborhood, this experiment should give us each a pretty good idea of what it means to be a black (wo)man in america.
posted by mlang at 6:39 AM on July 17, 2002

Here is The Stranger's take on the whole thing.
posted by gluechunk at 5:27 PM on July 17, 2002

Well, that one's not too flattering either. Derrick, are you still reading this? Any response?

You guys sure gave 'em enough rope to hang you with -- any reporter who wants to crucify you is not going to have any trouble.
posted by litlnemo at 7:21 PM on July 17, 2002

ahh, not too bad. she took our side a bit and the other side a bit in a very "strangeresque" fasion i think.

oh well, those reporters seem so sincere to your face, we thought both were going to make nice stories about two people trying a little self discovery and sharing it with everyone.. instead it warped on us a bit.

still, we helped out a good charity, i have things that will stay with me a lifetime.

is the moral of the story "dont even try because people will crucify you for it?" .. god i hope not.
posted by derrickito at 9:22 AM on July 18, 2002

« Older Pariah dogs of the Middle East   |   I'm Skeptical. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments