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Rush-hour reality: Jobless Joe is one of the desperate begging at freeway exits

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
Joe lost his job as a carpet and tile installer two days before Christmas, and he’s been begging around Minneapolis in an effort to keep a roof over his family’s heads.

Rush-hour drivers coming off 35W via the Lake Street exit Monday evening were met by 32-year-old Joe.

He wouldn’t give his last name, but he held a sign that read “Laid Off Homeless Single Dad 4 KIDS” — a stark reminder of the uncertain job market and enduring homeless and panhandling rates (PDF) in the Twin Cities.

To draw attention to his plight, Joe waved, danced, flashed the peace sign, and said, “God bless,” to motorists who either stopped to offer a bill or two or blew by.

Joe’s cardboard sign was created by his girlfriend’s 17- and 15-year-old daughters, who are staying with their grandmother in Brooklyn Center. The black eye came courtesy of Joe’s girlfriend the night before, but that’s all he wants to say about that.

He lost his job as a carpet and tile installer two days before Christmas, and he’s been begging around Minneapolis in an effort to keep a roof over his family’s heads.

Monday night, he made 40 bucks over the course of three hours, but he’d rather be working laying carpet and tile, which he’s done since he was a kid.

How does it feel to stand on the freeway corner, in front of long lines of indifferent motorists, holding that sign?

“It’s horrible, man,” he said, with a drinker’s lisp that recalls Eric Roberts’ in “The Pope Of Greenwich Village.”

“You get people who yell at you, ‘Get a job!’ Well, give me a job. I’ll work for you. I’ve always worked. I’ve always lived a good lifestyle. I’ve always had a good car and house and everything.”

In between looking for work and taking his place in line at local temp agencies, Joe hits the exit ramp a couple of times a week to beg. On Sunday he went to jail for trespassing, but he knows his rights.

“That sign right there says ‘No Trespassing — MnDOT.’ But we’re 12 feet in front of it, and I’ve already talked to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and they said that sign has nothing to do with anybody being in front of it, it has to do with people going up on the freeway,” he said.

“The cops harass me all the time. Especially on the other side; it’s a different precinct. They don’t bother me over here. But if the police came up right now, they’d arrest us both or take both of us in for trespassing.”

Joe wants it known that he’ll work any kind of construction, renovation, painting, tiling, whatever you got. He doesn’t want his contact information made public but said potential employers can look for him on the exit ramps — unless the cops shoo him off first.

Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Anderson on 05/09/2013 - 09:04 am.

    This made me want to cry.

  2. Submitted by mark wallek on 05/09/2013 - 11:11 am.

    A sad story…

    Repeated ad nauseum across the nation. I had to stop giving to these folks when my own circumstance got tighter, and when I could no longer easily distinguish between the legit panhandler and the lazy scammer. Another WPA program is what the nation needs, but will not happen. The pols are supportive of the offshore set, and the citizen, albeit needful, is lazy and feels wronged when asked to sacrifice. The problem is that we do not know sacrifice any longer. Many know hardship, doing without. Too many live with gross excess totally unneeded to maintain an already excessive lifestyle. Neither group understands sacrifice. They understand “want” and “have.” Our material values and misplaced love of “freedom” have occluded any ability to envision a nation that thrives together. What we have embodied is the competition of “greed” vs “need” and “having” over “trying to get.” The result of which is ugliness we’ve only had a taste of in this nation.

  3. Submitted by craig furguson on 05/09/2013 - 03:02 pm.

    You gotta wonder what else is going on

    There was an article in the strib today about construction work rebounding. And there is the black eye.

  4. Submitted by Jeff Kline on 05/09/2013 - 04:00 pm.

    Well…. I’ve seen them too.

    About half of them, are supplementing their drug or alcohol habit. The other half might be legit or variations on a theme.

    I am supporting my brood and I keep working. I am not on welfare or assistance, and won’t do it. I have been able to find other work even in a down market. So, I see problems in a lot of these and they aren’t *my* problems.

    Lastly; how’s that Obama/Biden vote working for you??!

    • Submitted by Lora Jones on 05/10/2013 - 08:02 am.

      Much better than a Romney one would have

      And don’t forget that the biggest influx of homeless panhandlers came at the behest of the Republican “God” — Saint Ronnie himself — when he started closing down mental institutions and emphasized punishment over treatment for drug and alcohol problems. And, don’t forget the joys of our thoroughly shredded safety net and the rise of and legal preference for multinational monopolies written into tax code and trade policies and stoked by union busting. This is the world Reaganomics has wrought.

    • Submitted by B. Dalager on 05/10/2013 - 12:54 pm.

      Your individual experience

      …is not generalizable. Anecdote |= data.

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