“You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” One man took this saying literally when he decided to give the ultimate homeless experience to anyone curious to see what it’s like to live on the streets of Seattle and willing to pay $2,000 for it.
Mike Momany was a freelance computer programmer conducting his business from an RV when he began to notice that living in Seattle was becoming a luxury. Inspired by the ever-rising costs of the big cities and the minimalist movement, he took two months off in the summer of 2013 to see what it was like not having a roof over his head. After experiencing life as a homeless himself, Mike decided to allow other privileged people who still had a home do the same by giving them a three-day “Course in Applied Homelessness”, as he calls it. Before the start of the actual homelessness course, Momany insists upon a preliminary interview to assess his and the participant’s compatibility and to make sure that the person knows exactly what they’re getting themselves into.
If all goes well, the tour begins with different activities planned for each of the three days. On the first day, the participant will be given a new persona along with a disguise tat will give them that genuine homeless look. They will then cruise around town vising all the “favored homeless spots” before retiring for the night in a homeless shelter.
The shelter Momany is currently working with does not allow ladies, making him unable to share the lifestyle with women (he plans on changing this soon). For the second day, he suggests trying “panhandling or sleeping on a park bench” to get a real feel of how people view the homeless. After some more sightseeing, it’s time for free meals and after trying the Fare Start chef program, the tour ends with a night stroll until 3 a.m. and cocktails in the morning to discuss and celebrate having gone through the homeless experience.
Is this crash course worth $2,000? Momany believes so. “It’s to bring an experience to people they can’t get very easily,” he explains. “It’s really not to make money.” Although there haven’t been any takers yet, his concept has been harshly criticized. “I’m worried about the homeless being exploited for profit and individual gain. Not the money itself,” one woman wrote on his Facebook page, while another stated that “Homeless people are not exhibits.”
Mike answered that although he’d like to be able to make a living off this idea, the course is purely educational and that $2,000 is not that much considering he also offers protection and insight into the homeless etiquette. Furthermore, he states that some of the money will be donated to all the homeless hot-spots they visit during the tour as well as to the aforementioned shelter.
Although Momany’s initiative might seem bizarre, some people see it as a great educational opportunity. One young sociology student even asked him to arrange a tour for her and other women who are too afraid to tackle this experience without any protection or guidance. Famous people have embraced the homelessness experience concept in the past. Back in 2009, Prince William himself spent a night on the cold pavement of a London alley to get the full on experience. ”I hope that by deepening my understanding of the issue, I can help do my bit to help the most vulnerable on our streets,” he said at the time.