Professional Beggar Damien Preston-Booth is probably one of the most inventive and persistent beggars in the world. He takes to the streets of London weekly in order to raise cash — or credit cards, for that matter.
The 37-year-old from Lancashire, in the north of England, travels to London’s Mayfair to beg and relies mainly on generous donations from wealthy tourists. He even carries a credit card reader around with him just in case people find themselves short of cash.
Around five years ago, Booth chose Wednesdays as his designated begging day and has travelled from his Lancashire apartment to London almost without fail on a weekly basis ever since he sleeps rough until about Friday, when he returns home.
Despite telling people he is homeless, Booth actually lives in a $500 per month apartment but he usually can be found hassling would-be donors and appealing for money.
If people are ready to contribute, he quickly whips out his mobile card reader that transfers all payments to his PayPal account. The reader is linked via Bluetooth to his smartphone, and the donor receives a receipt for his or her donation.
Apparently, Booth has struck gold in his very successful “job” as a professional beggar, as a former friend told reporters. According to a Telegraph report, some weeks he earns thousands of dollars, and even enjoys five or six holidays abroad each year.
The “friend” alleged as follows.
“He is taking everyone for a ride and makes an absolute fortune. He has befriended the super-rich at bars and restaurants. And if there’s a big party he’ll push through the photographers and ask celebrities for cash – he knows they won’t say no in front of the cameras. On New Year’s Eve, he made loads outside the Dorchester (hotel) where the Sultan of Brunei was having a party and people were throwing 50 and 20 pound notes at him.”
According to Emil Staykov, chief porter of the Lebanese restaurant Mamounia Lounge, who is familiar with Booth, “That guy is really arrogant.”
“He asks our customers for money as they go in and then sleeps in the doorway. I have called the police on him loads of times and have been tempted just to throw him out myself. I knew he had money, he always has two phones.”
It seems that the professional beggar speaks a few words in many languages, as concierge employee Karim Mouaj said, “He talks a little bit of loads of languages so he can speak to tourists.”
“He knows Arabic, a little bit of Chinese. He has the gift of the gab. I am shocked he has a house and goes on holidays.”
For his part, Booth clarified to the media that he did travel abroad, but only to look for work, and that he’s trying hard to turn his life around.
“I got my flat saved up and I’m looking for a new job – cleaning work, driving, anything. I’m sorting my life out.”