Homelessness Myth #22: ‘They Have Enough Money’

by on May 23, 2012 · 18 comments

in Civil Rights, Economy, Homelessness, Popular, San Diego

Do homeless people need money? Of course, housed or unhoused, we all need money. Some housed people believe that homeless people have enough money to get what they need.

However, do homeless people really have enough money to get what they need? I think not. For example, one of the most important things that any person needs is government-issued identification. People need this ID for many reasons, including to get a job, housing, food stamps (after the first month), healthcare, a bank account as well as to get married.

In California, there is a schedule of fees for DMV-issued photo ID cards. There is no fee for senior citizens (age 62 or older) to get these IDs. For everyone else, the fee for California photo ID cards is $26. However, this fee can be reduced to $7 when people meet the income requirements of a public assistance program and complete the Verification for Reduced Fee Identification Card form (DL 937) available from a host of governmental or nonprofit programs.

Homeless people under 62 years of age generally qualify for this $7 California reduced-fee photo ID card.

But do homeless people have $7? And if they need to get $7, how do they get it?  Some homeless people work, indeed, sometimes at more than one job. They may “can,” meaning they recycle. Some homeless people, including unaccompanied youth, go “spanging,” that is, they ask strangers for spare change.

Often they “go signing” or “fly a sign” which means they use a sign indicating their need and request for money. Some musically talented homeless people raise funds by “busking,” a term used for playing music for donations.

Homeless artists sometimes solicit donations for their creations. Some homeless people suffering from disabilities may receive money from government programs. And many homeless people involve themselves in any combination of these efforts to raise funds.

I asked the following people whether they had $7 and, if they didn!t, how they would raise $7. I am grateful to them for their answers to these questions.

Grace, age 52, lives in her RV

“I have $7. I am frugal. I get disability and supplement it by making jewelry when I can. These are the two ways I get income.  $7 is very important. You can do a lot of things with $7. To me, $7 means a meal, gas to move the RV, toilet paper or loads of laundry.  “$7 is a new wardrobe for a homeless person. Recently at the $2 Store, I bought a young homeless woman a dress, a pair of shorts, jeans, a t-shirt – three changes of clothing – all the clothing that you can carry.”

Eric, age 35, homeless

“I don!t have $7. To get $7, I have to beg practically all day. I don’t ‘can’ because of germs, it!s dirty.  Also, I make roses and angelfish that I give out for donations. Sometimes I make money, sometimes I don’t.”

OB Dillon, age “pushing 69,” homeless

“I have $7. People give me gifts because they like my guitar playing. That makes me a professional.”

Jon, age 49, lives in his van

“I do have $7. To make money, I spange.”

Justin, age 25, homeless

“I don’t have $7. What I do and what I’d like to do is different. It’s really demeaning for me. I have to swallow my pride… It would be nice if there were part-time jobs for the homeless to do.”

Manuel, age 30, homeless

“I have no money. I’m just looking for work. What would I have to do to get $7? Whatever it takes. I ask around for work. I do yard work. Whatever it takes.”

Anonymous, age 40, homeless

“I don’t have $7. What would I have to do to get $7? I’d ask someone – probably have to ask several people. I don’t like to do that. I’d rather do some kind of work.  How long would it take to get $7? It took me one hour to get $12 to go to a Christian rock concert. I had $13, but I didn’t realize that the ticket was $25. I just told people why I needed the money and I got it right away.  Getting money can take a dollar an hour, if you’re lucky.”

Bobby, age 41, lives in his car

“I always have $7. To get money, I go to work or to the bank. I work for a living, you know.”

J.D., age “almost 39,” homeless

“Nope, I don’t have $7. I make hacky-sacks and in four years [displaying his creation] this is the first one I’ve made. I haven’t eaten for a while so I’m hungry.”

Ethan, age 18, homeless

“I do have $7. To get $7 I sit around and make jewelry out of bamboo and sell it. It’s pretty much my life right now.”

Oasis, age 49, homeless

“I don’t have $7. I make a product out of scrap metal. I take the casings of old 50 caliber bullets and 20-millimeter bullets and I make peaceful pipes. I sell them to the public as they walk by. I’m self-employed.”

Christiana, age 26, homeless

“I don’t have $7. I manage a band named, ‘Welcome.’  We have our first gig this Thursday at 8pm at Bar 11… It’s $5 to get in. We get a split of the door.”

Jay, age 25, homeless

“I don’t have $7. I’m unemployed. In order to get $7, I’d have to get employed.”

Sandy, age 49, homeless

“I have $7 now, but I may not have it by tomorrow. I didn’t have a cent to my name yesterday. I was starving. I just asked people on the street for money.  I get social security but I can’t live on that. I was a homeowner. I left my husband.”

Erick, age 40, homeless

“I do not have $7. The $7 itself doesn’t mean anything to me – it’s what I can buy for myself that matters.”

Lena, age 29, housed

“I don’t have $7. I have $2 in my guitar case.  To get $7, I would either clean houses or I play the guitar. Most of my income comes from cleaning other people’s houses. I stay with my husband in a motel that charges $175 a week for our room.”

I look forward to your comments.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

doug porter May 23, 2012 at 8:54 am

Funny how a few real voices can bust through some stereotypes.
Just remember: “there but for the grace of God, go I”. (Probably not exact, but close enough)
I predict hater comments in 3…2…1…


Christine Schanes May 23, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Hi, Doug,

Thanks for your comment.

I wrote about this myth because I attended a meeting of service providers where one person in a position of authority said that homeless people have money to pay for things so that things should not be provided to them without payment in exchange.

I was stunned by this position. I do know that this position is held by a number of people, but it was still difficult to comprehend coming from a service provider.

So, we don’t even have to wait for negative comments.

My hope is that by having homeless people explain their circumstances for themselves, that we can educate those who need it, foster understanding and encourage compassion. That’s my hope and prayer.



john sobiech May 23, 2012 at 1:32 pm

THERE ARE MANY lies about the homeless and ignorance. As a former homeless human i have expirenced the hate and injustices of SOME in SD ANDLA. Giving id vouchers and having various chruches write the check TO THE DMV is MOST proactive. If you are a Christian it is our DUTY and OBLIGATION to help the homeless in OUR community; not just 3rd world. Lets help them UP and STOP blame and labels. TOGETHER WE CAN END SD homelessness! God bless you! john


Christine Schanes May 23, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Hi, John,

Thank you for your comment.

I agree with you that, “TOGETHER WE CAN END ED homelessness!”

I am pleased to hear that you are no longer homeless. Congratulations! I would be interested in hearing how you got out of homelessness… Would you be willing to share any of these details?



john sobiech May 23, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Yes Christine! 1. To prove your homeless you MUST go to STVINNYS on 12th and Imperial. DTSD. 2. you must ask case manager about affordable housing options. 3. you must have ssi or job(s) get on wait list. 4. you must rid yourself of homeless people and ALL who use you or are abusive. 5. get involved with area churches and do volunteer work to BUILD your positive support system. 6. be tenatious and follow thru. Getting off the streets is a full time job. 7. all studies PROVE HOUSING ends homelessness. if you are a USA VETERAN you must go to VA in LaJolla and ask for VA HOMELESS PROGRAM. they will get them housing in 3months! GOD BLESS YOU!


Christine Schanes May 23, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Hi, John,

Thanks for your comment.

What a detailed explanation of how to proceed to get out of homelessness! Excellent!

Thanks, John. I know that you’re helping other people.

Best Wishes,


john sobiech May 23, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Also Christine, drug addicts and alcholics MUST get sober first before they can ever END thier homelessness. Salvation Army DT SD have a free program. Also SD homeless people can call 211 A FREE call for help . Thanks Christine and OB for caring for your homeless people in OBSD!!


Christine Schanes May 23, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Hi, John,

Thanks for your comment.

Yes, it is most helpful to get sober as a person strives to get out of homelessness.

Thanks for the tips and your kind words.


john sobiech May 23, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Hi again. my statement” rid yourself of homeless people” came out wrong. I ment, rid your self of all abusive, addicted and dangerous people (not just homeless) . “Bad Company ruins good character” I had to let go of all bad behavior people. I had to be a loner to protect myself. Its hard to find other homeless people that you can trust. Some homeless people are good . some are bad. I had to be wise and fly right. SDPD are NOT your friend. I hope people didnt take my statement wrong. I get home to SD every 3 months. Someday i may move back (home). City of Refuge helps SD homeless people too. they are on 25the and imperial. thanks for letting me share. -john


Christine Schanes May 23, 2012 at 10:38 pm


Thanks for your comment.

I think all of us understood that you meant that a person needs to be in a healthful environment in order to protect themself. It just makes sense whether a person is housed or unhoused.

Take care of yourself in whatever city you find yourself now. Please stay in touch.



Bearded OBcean May 24, 2012 at 10:06 am

Kind of a tangent, but it’s sort of anathema to suggest that “For example, one of the most important things that any person needs is government-issued identification. People need this ID for many reasons, including to get a job, housing, food stamps (after the first month), healthcare, a bank account as well as to get married.”

Hasn’t that been one of the more bemoaned aspects of the AZ law is it’s racist to require people to show their ID? Or for voting for that matter?


Christine Schanes May 24, 2012 at 11:08 am

Hi, Bearded OBcean,

Thanks for your comment.

And thanks for bringing up the AZ law requiring people to show their IDs.

You truly raise the philosophical/jurisprudence issues of when it is lawful to require that a person have and display ID as opposed to when is it a right to privacy or a right to avoid discrimination not to show ID.

I believe that it is fair and legal to expect someone to prove who they are for a number of purposes.

However, I believe that it is neither fair nor legal to require the production of ID when the primary result of requiring said ID constitutes discrimination.

This is a big topic…

What do you think?


jacki jackson May 31, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Hi there,
I work with the homeless in Australia where an unemployed homeless person, depending on circumstances, receives between $450 – $875 (AUD) every fortnight for as long as is needed. It makes me sad to read how much struggle there can be to get $7.
I speak to homeless people everyday who complain about the amount of money they get from the Government, i dont think they realise how lucky they are!


Christine Schanes June 1, 2012 at 10:17 am

Hi, Jackie Jackson,

Thanks for your comment.

Are you still in Australia? Do you still work with homeless people?

I’d certainly like to hear more about your work.



Jacki Jackson June 1, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Hi Christine,
Yep still in Australia. I work for the Dept of Human Services, which i guess would be like your social security. I work with homeless and marginalised customers who find it difficult to access mainstream services, ie, go in to an office, for whatever reason. I work alongside community organisations to get the best outcomes, but i guess really when it comes down to it, the most important thing i do is listen. Listen to peoples stories. Just making small differences where i can!


Christine Schanes June 2, 2012 at 7:38 am

Hi, Jacki Jackson,

Thanks for your comment. It’s great to know that you are reading the OB Rag all the way in Australia!

And thank you for all the work you do to help people at the Dept. of Human Services.

It is very moving to read that “the most important thing I do is listen. Listen to people’s stories. Just making small differences where I can!”

I believe that, too.

I think it’s our humanity, our finer natures, coming out and being shared. And I believe that we al benefit from one person’s kindness.

My next article is on homelessness and violence. I hope you’ll comment because I’d like to know more about your experiences in this field.

Please stay in touch,


Ann-Marie October 10, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Thank you for this beautiful article. We all need to show more compassion.


Christine Schanes October 11, 2012 at 9:56 am


Thank you for your comment.

It’s wonderful to meet people who already truly care about homeless people. Thanks for all you do, think and genuinely feel about homeless people.

I hope you’ll stay in touch,


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