Will Andersen: Professional Bum Admits To Making $200 An Hour Panhandling

Will Andersen, a 43-year-old former theater stagehand, does nothing but sit on the sidewalk outside of Grand Central Terminal in New York City with his empty hands upturned and held out to kind-hearted strangers. Doing so earns the professional panhandler upwards of $200 an hour.

You read that correctly. Being a panhandler earns Andersen twice what many medical doctors earn in the same amount of time.

Andersen is just one of many panhandlers in New York City who are earning mind-blowing amounts of dough, along with being fed better food than the average guy is able to feed himself, simply by sitting on the sidewalk and trusting that New Yorkers will have pity on him.

Andersen told the New York Post that on Friday mornings, he easily makes $400 in just two hours.

Even as Andersen was speaking with the Post’s reporter, another panhandler came rushing up to him to brag about his morning haul, saying, “I got three breakfast sandwiches today! And they were all meat! I’m putting on pounds out here!”

Andersen seems to show no shame about taking advantage of people who give him the money.

“I have gotten $80 or $100 from a single person. And they will say, ‘Just do something good tonight.’ They mean go to a hotel or a hostel,” he explained.

Those who give him the money don’t realize that Andersen is not actually homeless. He says he was homeless for three years, but that now, in fact, he rents a room in Inwood and is on the streets strictly to collect handouts.

“I get people who give me five bucks each day. Five bucks each day, that’s five days a week, two people — that’s $50 a week right there. I get dog food. I put away for rent. I pay $300 a month, that’s nothing.”

And yes, he does get dog food. Because Andersen’s 9-year-old dog, Rizzo, is actually his secret weapon, admitting openly that having his dog with him helps a lot.

“People are more generous because I have a dog, 100 percent. They throw me a dollar and say, ‘That’s for the dog,'” Andersen said.

Next to him and his dog sits a bag overflowing with food for himself that people have donated.

Another panhandler, who only gave the name Daniel but was willing to speak up, says that for professional bums, panhandling in New York City is all about location, location, location.

“There are other spots where people get hundred-dollar bills. I could go over to Fifth Avenue and make $150 before lunch. But I don’t want to deal with the hassle. There’s people that bully you to get out of the good spots.”

These eye-opening admissions from New York City vagrants come just a day after Police Commissioner Bill Bratton recommended that New Yorkers simply not give panhandlers money if they want them off the streets. Bratton says that forking over dough to them simply encourages them to continue to beg.

“My best advice to the citizens of New York City: If this is so upsetting to you, don’t give. One of the quickest ways to get rid of them is not to give to them,” Bratton said. “New Yorkers who are complaining so much about it, well, one of the things they can do is stop contributing to it.”

Bill Bratton says New Yorkers should stop giving money to panhandlers.
New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton recommends ceasing all hand-outs to panhandlers. [Photo by Monica Schipper / Getty Images Entertainment]

Some panhandlers even agreed with Bratton. Shaunyece Darling, a 22-year-old panhandler, bluntly admitted that he was correct.

“If you stop giving them money and help them with those other things, like blankets, clothing and food, they would definitely leave because they would know they couldn’t get the money to get high or drunk.”

Despite Andersen’s “big money” success as a panhandler, it is likely that his particular financial success is more the exception rather than the rule. In 2013, a survey conducted among panhandlers found that most make less than $25 per day, and that 94 percent of them spend their money on food before drugs or alcohol — although an admitted 44 percent of those surveyed would also spend their money on those such items, as well. And a 2010 survey showed that 70 percent of panhandlers would actually prefer to earn their money through a minimum wage job rather than relying upon the kindness of strangers.

There is no doubt that homelessness and poverty is a real and growing problem. As of September of 2015, there were 59,305 homeless people in New York City, including 23,923 homeless children, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.

And as for Will Andersen, he may find it harder to make $200 an hour now that his face has been plastered on the front page news. In fact, it’s reported that Andersen and his dog didn’t show up at their usual spot this morning in order to collect that easy money.

Somehow, that’s just not very surprising.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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