At the liquor store a few Fridays back, I saw two of the panhandlers who often work the corner of Lyndale North and Olson Memorial Highway: one, the surprisingly good looking guy who'd seem comfortable in fleece and a canoe, the other, a man whose skin was weathered to a leathery red. I couldn't help but be just a little excited; it was like seeing celebrities. But then I realized that panhandling, which I'd never before connected to celebrity, involves a flattening of dimension, both a distancing and a caricature: I know nothing about these guys, yet because of familiarity I feel like I "know" them. Hell, I don't even know their names.
Enter: Project Hello. Created in 2003, the project aimed to distribute 5,000 "Hello my name is" signs to homeless in Los Angeles. It came out of a personal encounter by one of its founders with a homeless guy in Venice, CA. "It wasn't until I learned his name, Robertson, that I stopped looking at him as a panhandler, but a person that I wanted to know more about and help."
(Via Wooster Collective.)