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Stimulate me: Local panhandlers launch their own bailout appeal

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Not so long ago, downtown panhandlers merely had to proclaim their misfortunes -- disabled, homeless, stranded, just got out of the hospital or the military, pregnant, or any combination of same -- in order to secure that every little bit that helps, God Bless. Like Scott, pictured here, working 18th and Tremont a few years ago.

But desperate times demand innovative thinking. Cruise the sign-flyers along Speer Boulevard these days and you're likely to find placards prominently promoting a heretofore taboo subject: work. As in, "Got Any Work?" (Seen at the panhandling mecca, Colfax and Speer). Or the agile, white-haired veteran a few blocks further down the boulevard, flipping a simple "Got Work?" smiley face at motorists like a refugee from the milk board -- and collecting handsomely for his trouble.

Okay, so maybe the subject wasn't entirely verboten in bygone days. But it was usually mentioned in the negative, if at all -- as in, "Disabled. Can't Work." The current economic news and talk of bailouts seems to have prompted a brilliant shift in strategy.

Think about it. What better time to ask for work, assuming you want to remain safely out of the job market, than when thousands of layoffs are being announced every day? What better way to guilt-trip your customers than to remind them that there, but for the grace of Timmy Geithner, go they? You've got to hand it to these marketing geniuses. At least, they hope you will. It's hard work, this business of asking for work when you've already got a pretty demanding job.

For other takes on the panhandling industry, see David Holthouse's "Signs of the Times" and Adam Cayton-Holland's "Panhandle With Care."

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