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article imageOp-Ed: Entrepreneur finds new way to exploit the homeless in Seattle

By Karen Graham     Dec 2, 2013 in World
Seattle - The homeless present a growing problem in Seattle, Washington, as well as other cities across the United States. But it's generally accepted that through donations and the help of community-spirited organizations, the homeless can be given a better life.
On Monday, CNN.com highlighted a scheme thought up by a newly-homeless Seattle, Washington man that has created quite a stir, not because it's unique, but because it smacks of exploitation of the city's homeless population.
Mike Momany, 63-years-old, and homeless himself for the last two months, is offering a three-day tour of the homeless culture in the city, calling the experience a "private course in Applied Homelessness." For a sum of $2,000, participants will find themselves immersed in homelessness.
Nights will be spent in $15-a-night rooms in a hostel, in the same building as a real homeless shelter, only one-step up, though. There are visits planned that take in several popular homeless "hangouts," like the Seattle Public Library and public parks, as well as arranged talk-sessions with groups of homeless people.
There will also be plenty of opportunities to try panhandling, sleeping on park benches and roaming the streets at 3 am in the early morning hours. The price of the tour will also include the appropriate homeless clothing needed so participants will blend in.
Momany explained that part of the $2,000 cost of the tour, about $500, will be donated to homeless shelters and pay for his expenses. So far, no one has signed up for a tour, but Momany has a couple other ideas up his sleeve, like a tour of some of the local pot-growing enterprises in the area. It should be noted that Washington legalized the growing of marijuana.
Momany insists his only motive for venturing into the tourist business is the burgeoning population of the homeless in the Seattle area. The numbers have shot up 15 percent since 2009, and now Seattle is home to over 9,000 homeless, living in shelters or on the streets.
While admitting he wants to make money, Momany also says he wants to get people thinking about the homeless situation and try to come up with some new ideas in combating the problem. Of course, if he were to chip-in a larger amount of his tour fee, that might help a little, too.
Detractors of the scheme say the $2,000 fee for the tour would easily provide food for over 200 people, or provide for a homeless family for two months. Others think Momany is being too greedy by keeping $1,500 of the fee for himself. But the biggest objection is the"showcasing" of the homeless.
"Homeless people are not tourist attractions. They have enough issues without this company profiting off exploiting them as well," one commenter on a Seattle Post-Intelligencer story about the tour recently wrote.
Michael Stoops, with the National Coalition for the Homeless, said he thought Momany's heart was in the right place, but not so at the expense of making a profit off the homeless. "If the experience is really about giving people an inside look at homelessness, then it shouldn't be about turning a profit," Stoops said.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about Tours, Homelessness, Shelters, seattle washington, Profits
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