Detroit Homeless Man Solicits Odd Jobs On His Website, Accepts Credit Cards

A Detroit homeless man has taken his panhandling game to a new level worthy of the internet age: he solicits odd jobs on his website, and accepts credit cards via a card reader on his cell phone.

As WDIV-TV (Detroit) reports, 42-year-old Abe Hagenston, who goes by the name “Honest Abe,” has been homeless and living on the streets for at least 10 years. He can usually be seen panhandling at a Skid Row intersection, where a large population of homeless people is known to congregate, bumming change from passing motorists.

As WDIV notes, however, any motorist who tries to claim they don’t have any change won’t be able to use that excuse on Honest Abe – he accepts credit cards. Using a cell phone credit card reader – which anyone can buy for around $20 and use with a couple of clicks of a mouse – Honest Abe is able to take donations.

But he’s not content to accept money without giving back. That’s why Honest Abe, with the help of some friends from a local church, has set up a bare-bones website, which he checks and maintains from the computers in the Detroit Public Library system. He solicits odd jobs, and if he’s able to do it, he’ll do it. If a job is too big for just him, he’ll recruit some friends to help out.

“I’ve done some painting. I’ve taken some other guys out on team jobs where I needed a couple extra guys to carry some things.”

He’s also brutally honest about his “business plan.”

“Being homeless is my business now. My business is being homeless.”

Beyond just earning a few bucks here and there for himself and his homeless friends, Honest Abe has grand designs the he talks about on his website. In short, he wants to help lift 365 people — one per day, for a year — out of homelessness.

Honest Abe is brutally, well, honest, about how hard it is to emerge from homelessness. Social service systems and charities are in place, but people still fall through the cracks.

“I’ve rebuilt my life a few times but this time I’m not getting it. People don’t realize how tough it is to come from nothing when you don’t have any family or any friends… It seems that my life has been a series of rebuilding. Along the way I have learned that hard work, determination, ethical and moral decision making, along with a positive attitude is the right combination to pull yourself out of a hole. However, just once I wish there was someone with a rope to assist.”

As Honest Abe’s story shows, homelessness in America is a complex problem with few easy fixes. As Jayda Shuavarnnasri of the National Coalition for the Homeless writes, the reasons for homelessness go far beyond “not having enough money for a home.” Some homeless people are women and children fleeing abusive homes. Some are teens and young adults kicked out of their families for being LGBTQ. Others simply can’t get by on a minimum-wage job. Many have substance abuse and mental health issues.

Regardless of how they ended up in their circumstances, Shuavarnnasri says, homeless people deserve your respect.

“Ask a [homeless] person their name, because who knows how long it’s been since they heard someone say their name aloud, and because they are human… ask how you can help. Because showing someone respect and being a good helper, includes recognizing an individual’s own agency to transform their own lives, even if it’s just for that moment.”

For Honest Abe and his fellow Detroit homeless friends, that transformation comes from soliciting work as well as asking for spare change.

[Image via Shutterstock/LDprod]

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