Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

July 6, 2009


Lane DeGregory, Tampa Bay - You have to go to work early. That's what they call it, going to work.

Get there by 7 a.m. or some guy who says he's disabled, or some woman who claims she has kids, will steal your slice of sidewalk.

You want an interstate off ramp: lots of traffic, an overpass for shade. Or a busy intersection with a long stoplight.

And you need a sign: your life story summed up on a soggy square.

Better yet, make two signs, so you can be whatever you need to be. . .

Every day, from dawn to dusk, they're out there. From Seminole to St. Petersburg, Clearwater to Carrollwood, hundreds of panhandlers brandish their makeshift billboards across Tampa Bay. Their weathered faces and sad signs have become part of Florida's landscape.

There's the elderly African-American man who swears he fought in 'Nam. His hat reads "U.S. Air Force." His sign includes the Marine motto, "Semper fi."

There's the bearded white guy whose cardboard claims he was "layed off." And the young guy with the red goatee and "Anything helps" sign who hangs out by Tampa's Bayshore Boulevard Publix.

Around Tampa's Hyde Park alone, panhandlers say they can count at least 200 of their kind. In St. Petersburg, off I-275, nine people compete for shifts at one intersection. Turf wars erupt. A 60-year-old man who uses a walker recently shoved a 49-year-old into the bushes. "He knew I owned that spot under the tree.". . .

"Panhandling isn't just a job. It's an art," said Cliff Stewart, 49, who has worked the I-275 22nd Avenue N exit in St. Petersburg since he got out of prison two years ago.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It only took eight short years for some loonies to double the National Debt from $5.3T to $11.4Trillion with a rubber-stamp Repug Congress. Where are all those irresponsible people now, and why aren't they still demanding more Deficit Spending and Trickle-Down Economics. Sure... lets have another War, and bomb somebody else who we know wasn't involved in whatever we decide to become irrate about. Lets take even more money from the government coffers and give it to large corporations and Millionaires / Billionaires. Lets allow more factories and dummy corporations to move off-shore. Lets let our government protect us from those mean and nasty labor organizations who don't have our best interest at heart... not like our politicians and corporate leadership. Lets... do something just as long as it funnels money to somebody that is politically and financially connected So It Can Do Us Some Good!

These poor people are what Dubya's Plutocratic Minions might call Speed Bumps.


July 7, 2009 10:01 AM  
Anonymous pay justice said...

No one works harder or longer than the poor do - just to stay alive.

July 9, 2009 8:38 AM  

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