High-tech Panhandler

Man_panhandlingNo one will confuse Abe Hagenston with Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Evan Spiegel (Snapchat), Larry Page (Google), or Jeff Bezos (Amazon). They are all successful high-tech entrepreneurs (someone who starts a business from a new idea). He is a panhandler (someone who asks or begs for money). But they do share a small similarity.

You’ll find panhandlers everywhere you find people. On the street. In subway stations. At the airport. In front of the coffee shop. Most are homeless and don’t have jobs.

Abe Hagenston fits that description. He spends most of his time on a corner in Detroit, Michigan. He and other panhandlers work that corner in shifts (at different times) every day, hoping for handouts (something given to a needy person) from people who drive or walk by.

Most panhandlers use a cup or some other container to collect the handouts they get, but not Hagenston. He accepts credit cards. We might call him a high-tech panhandler.

Hagenston has a simple cellphone he got from the government’s Lifeline Support program for people who can’t pay for regular telephone service. And he uses a Square Reader, a 10-dollar device that plugs into his cellphone and makes it possible for him to read credit cards. He told a Detroit TV station: “I take Visa, MasterCard, American Express. I’m the only homeless guy in America who can take a credit card. It’s all done safely and securely (in a way that protects something from being stolen).”

Hagenston has other high-tech ideas for supporting himself and other homeless people. He has a simple website that he uses to tell his story and ask for money. And he’s using the website to try to find work for himself and his friends. “I’ve got about 20 or 30 friends around here all homeless, all [with] various skills that would love to get some work.” He hopes that people will use the website to find someone – homeless people like himself – to mow their lawns, clean out their garages, and do other odd (simple, usually one-time) jobs.

Hagenston has been homeless for almost seven years. It’s unclear how or why he became homeless. He says it’s not because he doesn’t want to work. He says that its difficult to “pull yourself out of poverty” without friends or family to help.

Homelessness is a serious problem in the U.S. as it is in many other countries. Every January the U.S. government tries to count all the homeless in one day to get a kind of snapshot (quick photo) of homelessness. In 2015 they counted more than 500,000, 25% of them children. The number who suffer homelessness at some time during the year is much higher, perhaps more than 3.5 million. People become homeless for a variety of reasons and often can’t do anything about it without help.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English website, where you can find help to improve your English.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.


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7 Responses to High-tech Panhandler

  1. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Interesting subject about High-tech Panhandler. I didn’t know about that. Thjanks Warren.

  2. Dan says:

    Hello everyone.

    Good! I forgot today is Tuesday and this is a surprise.
    That’s because this month I am working two days shifts and during Saturdays and Sundays and what happens when you do that is you lost count of the days. That’s why.

    Now, let me see if I can say something without “virtue signalling”.
    This is a new term/definition I have learned recently and I wanted to use it.
    I believe to be a negative thing to do that.

    Over here few times a year there are volunteers at the supermarket.
    They give to the customers a plastic bag that people are supposed to hand it back with non perishable foods.
    I prefer to do that because as a rule I never give money to people on the streets.
    Here people asking for money are mainly gypsies at the traffic lights.
    But they are not really poor, that’s their lifestyle.


  3. Warren Ediger says:

    Dan – When you write “that’s their lifestyle”, you raise an important issue. I’m happy to say that many churches and other organizations in our area try to help the truly homeless. I helped with one for 3 or 4 years. One of our greatest problems (we provided food and used clothing; others provided temporary housing) was to know who was truly homeless and needed help and who was trying to “game” the system to avoid working, etc. I’m happy to help the first group; I have no trouble saying “no” to the second.

  4. Dan says:

    Thanks Warren.

    I like the term “to game the system”.

    My preference goes to the system explained by Warren instead of the one used in Brazil where the government is involved in helping people in need.

    Looking at the US I have been exposed to ideas (conservatives) of running a country that I had not idea of previously.
    I like the idea proposed by conservatives of having small governments that just do a few things and people HAVE personal responsibility.

    I am not sure though. I have never lived in such a system and I would like to try it to see if it works out well.

    As I said once, I like the ideas pushed by conservatives minus the religion part as a nonbeliever.

    Anyway, thank you always a pleasure engaging with you guys.

  5. Dan says:

    Me again, sorry.

    Just to add that I have never been exposed to those ideas because in Italy
    our right is like the left in the US.
    I would say Sanders represents our left and Hillary is our right over here.
    Of course things are more complicated than that.
    That is just to give out a quick picture of the situation.

    Thanks again.

  6. Tania says:

    New to me the verb “to panhandle”. According to my dictionary it is an American phrase synonym with “to beg”.
    I know just to beg and beggary. To panhandle credit cards…new ideas in this field of activity.
    In my country we are encouraged to ban the beggary. Many children are used as beggars for adults.

    Difficult this verb to beg as it can mean and to ask for formally, I beg your pardon.

  7. Pete says:

    Interesting stuff
    Quite Nobel
    Hey Warren
    What is up man ?
    Good stuff !!
    Well ,
    There are a significant number of hobos , i mean homeless , in down town tironoto. It bums me out when I see a Yong and able individual soliciting funds from people walking by.
    Well , I just say , homeless people use a different technique. They typically don’t ask for money using jars or cups. U know , it is not London Ebby nor 19th century.:)))

    They simply sit on their regular spot, yup they mostly have a spot to themselves , with a sign in front of them typically prepped aginst themselves.u don’t hear a peep out of them.the sign is not a print out or anything. It is ,at least in the majority of cases , a rectangular piece brownish cupboard with their writing on it.
    The writing usually goes like ” i m homeless ,in need of money , or i m hungry.sth around those lines.
    Sometimes I spot them on the subway too. They are mostly concentrated in down town core,though.
    As I mentioned , u always see the same people on the same spot as if they rented out the spot. The spot is mostly a recess in a wall or against the door of some deserted old house or sth.
    U know , panhandling is done around down town Tornoto on a whole different level. U know , they brave out the elements living on the streets day in ,day out. The weather is very harsh in Toronto ,at least for a good 8 months. I could never surmise how on earth they survive the harsh winter here living outside on the streets. Sure , they are shelters situated around down town toronoto. Having said that , their capacity is limited they usually bed 5/6 thousands people combined every night tops.i suppose , the number of homeless are significantly higher.
    The ones who sleep on the streets usually have warm blankets in tow still the wetness and coldness of the ground they sleep on penetrates to their very bone, I tell u. Some other sleep on the subway grate on surface streets. They can find one or two of them by the sidewalk in every major streets. The good thing about those grates is that they blow hot air outside at a 15/20 minute intervals.
    The reason I know this because I myself sometimes ,specially in winter time, stop on them and get a waft of conditioned air coming out of the grates.
    I m telling u , it is a treat,a moment of joy , while u r schlepping around down town Tornoto in winter time.
    I digrass
    Oh , I was saying :
    It is sad when u see people specially Yong girls squating on a corner soliciting funds from passerbys
    I always stop and check my monetary situation when I spot them on the streets. U know , I feel for them.

    Sometimes i happened to sit and chit chat with them. some have very interesting story life to natrate.
    Trust me , sometimes all they need is a pair ears.

    A learning guid member


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