Alfred and I take a daily trip down the block a ways and then past the corner over by Wal-Mart to Burger King. Along the way there is a bus stop with one of those thick clear plastic three-sided shelter with some seats inside to give you a little comfort while you are waiting.
When we started our walks back in December I noticed a guy there who had his suitcase-with-wheels with him. He was there when we walked by and there again when we walked home. Buses come along every 10 minutes at these stops so for him to still be in the shelter was a bit puzzling.
The next day we saw him again at the shelter and then once we saw him in BK. I started to put it together: these guys are homeless in Largo. They stay at various hubs throughout the day and take advantage of local businesses for necessities. For the cost of a cup of coffee they can come into Burger King, avail themselves of the restroom to clean up and take care of business.
When I was first sentenced to Kitschland begging on street corners was allowed and they were everywhere. They would beg by day and converge on a couple of motels-turned-state-subsidized housing by night. A Tampa Bay Times report on local beggars found out that they could make as much as $65,000 a year with most in the $40-48,000 range.
Then the St. Pete/Clearwater communities deemed their day jobs illegal and became persona-non-grata. Most of the motels have been torn down. Some circumvented the laws by hanging out in store or restaurant parking lots looking for handouts from customers. Most, however, went over to Tampa where there were no such vagrancy laws.
The ones who now hangout all day in bus stops and use McDonald's and Burger King for their bathroom needs are the true flotsam of our society. They have no homes, but have services who will house them when it does get cold here. Last month there were three churches that opened their doors for the homeless to sleep and keep warm.
These guys don't beg for funds from people, or hang out in business parking lots looking for handouts. They must receive government assistance of some kind, but they live almost entirely off the grid. Whether it is by choice or circumstances, I have no way of knowing. We know that there are those who enjoy the anonymity from societal responsibility, and we know there are those who got caught in economic hardship.
I don't know much about their daily migration habits, their nightly hangouts or lifestyle. All I know is what I see. They are quiet and bother no one. What I do know is: being homeless in Tampa Bay is better than being homeless in Minneapolis.