It’s boom time in Washington DC. While the rest of the nation suffers through the worst recession since the 1930s, D.C. has boomed under the influx of stimulus funds and the lobbying to direct the stimulus’ destination. An unseen effect of this wealth has been the generosity of D.C.’s residents to the homeless population.
TheDC spoke to several homeless people, and the money they make will likely cause many an impoverished intern and Hill staffer do a jealous double take.
TheDC spoke to “Scott,” 20, from Maine, who came to Washington to join the circus. After that didn’t pan out he started begging on the street. Scott plays his ukulele on the corner of 17th and K outside of Pret a Manger with his new dog, Sira. Scott told TheDC that he receives no direct government assistance and survives purely on the generosity of passers by.
When Scott came to Washington, he says that all he had was his bag and a guitar, and he was making “a good 50 bucks a day” by playing that. But Scott had always wanted a dog, and once he got one he saw a serious uptick in his income.
“Me and him made good money, I’d sit on the corner anywhere and we’d make like $200 in a matter of a couple of hours,” Scott said. “I think the most money I made with my dog was about $800 a day in Virginia sitting on this corner with a sign saying we’re trying to get home and we need supplies. Which was true. We raked in about $1,500 bucks in two days.”
Scott spoke warmly about the people of Washington. “They’re good to their homeless around here. … They have clothes vans that come around, like, they will give you necessities like a razor, shaving cream, toothpaste, tooth brush, socks and what ever you need, clothes and food.”
The dinning, according to Scott, isn’t too bad. “I’ve had some really good food here that like you would go to like a shop and pay like $30, however much, $10 from like a nice platter of meal and they are just handing it out to the homeless. … You can survive out here without any money if you really wanted to. Me, personally, I hate money but I love it at the same time. All money is is greed and you can never have enough of it.”
“John”, 28, from Maryland explained that just like every successful business venture, the old adage of “location, location, location” still rings true. A favorite spot of his is where the Whitehurst Freeway joins K street.
“Stand out there at 9:00 in the morning one morning and you just get paid. I made $300 the last two days…. I made $175 in two hours there. … I made $312 yesterday and $308 the day before that just between Saturday and Sunday. Just from sitting on a street corner for like five hours. … You just sit there and these people just give you $20 and say thank you. Usually I start around at like 8:00 to 9:00 in the morning and that means you’re done by six or seven with breaks in the middle, you know, stop and do things. An average day for me is about a$120 or so.”
A full breakdown of how much Scott and John are making is not available, and the income they make is by no means guaranteed. On the other hand, it’s very likely tax-free.
To give some sense of scale compared to other jobs in the District:
A worker on minimum wage, before taxes, in D.C. who works 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year at $8.25 per hour would make $17,160 or roughly $47 per day. A staff assistant on Capitol Hill, before taxes, makes in the range of $25,000 per year divided up over 365 days, working out at about $69 per day. A Congressional salary for a rank-and-file Representative before tax is $174,000 per year, and divided up over 365 that works out to $476 per day. The president makes $400,000 annually before taxes, which translates to $1,095 per day.