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square, Abe Hagenston, digital panhandling, homeless, homelessness

A 42-year-old Detroit homeless man, Abe Hagenston better known as Honest Abe, is in the business of being homeless. You read that right, he has taken panhandling to the next level by developing a website for people to use to hire him and other homeless people to do odd jobs. He even bought a square so that he can accept credit cards from his cell phone. He has a business license and merchant’s account and all card swipes go through square.com and they do his merchant processing so he has no access to your credit card info.

I was confused because I thought homelessness was the result of some horrible thing that happened to someone, like getting AIDS, losing your house in a fire or having your child get hit by a car and here in your arms one minute and gone the next. I thought that these things could happen to anyone. That was the tragedy. Any of us could fall victim to this type of travesty at any time through no fault of our own just really shitty circumstances. That’s why I give when I can but when I heard words like square, website and business license, it felt more like a choice than a situation beyond one’s own control. It felt intentional but I didn’t know the whole story.

Apparently, honest Abe has been in the business of being homeless for nearly a decade and just got tired of hearing people say that they wish they could help but they just didn’t have any cash on them. It’s true; we are becoming a cashless society. I seldom have cash and usually, I give food because I can charge it. He got tired of just waiting for something to happen to turn his life around so he created a way to help himself and others.

“Being homeless is my business. Now my business is being homeless,” he said.

At first when I heard this story, I was a little leery. I mean, how the hell can a homeless man afford a phone, a data plan, have a website and think to use a square to get donations? I would never have thought of all of that and I work online in the space. Apparently, Honest Abe has a better business sense than most.

When I heard the blurb on the radio this morning, I firmly believed this guy was a scam artist who was lazy and just trying to find an easy way to make a buck instead of working (because there are people who do that.) There was an entire expose a few years back about suburbanites who made panhandling their jobs to the tune of $65,000 a year because they didn’t want to work. They enjoyed the hustle. That’s when I started giving food.

But then I researched his site, watched his video and read his story and I may have been wrong. I think this guy is just smart and trying to make the best out of a bad situation. He actually doesn’t want a hand out, he wants a hand up and he wants to pass it on.

square, Abe Hagenston, digital panhandling, homeless, homelessness

It seems that my life has been a series of rebuilding.  Along the way I have learned that hard work, determination, ethical and moral decision making, along with a positive attitude is the right combination to pull yourself out of a hole.  However, just once I wish there was someone with a rope to assist.  I have never had the benefit of being assisted.  I have always found myself in the wrong demographic, ineligible for assistance other than food stamps, having to struggle when I could have been making progress.  I have never even heard of a homeless program (let alone seen one) that actually presented itself as a viable pick you up, dust you off and send you running, all the bells and whistles included full package program.

Being homeless gives a person a lot of time to reflect on what went wrong, and what a person could do differently if given the chance.

Hagenston’s cellphone was provided by the federal government’s Lifeline Assistance program and is known as the “Obamaphone.” His website is a free WIX website that he set up and accesses via the public library.

He doesn’t get food stamps and he refuses to lie about his mental state or do anything illegal to get housing. He wants to earn his way but, due to circumstances beyond his control, he is without a home and any identification and this prohibits him from securing employment.

There are 4 options left to me.  I could steal, deal drugs, prostitute, or fly a sign.  The first 3 are out of the question.  I am not slick enough to steal, I am not mean enough to deal drugs, and I am not pretty enough to prostitute.  So, you see me at 8 and Woodward.  I mean what else am I supposed to do?  Just lay down and starve to death?

I think he seems rather bright and business savvy. He may just be a genius. He is not only trying to get himself and other homeless people honest work and pay, he is trying to develop an app to identify the truly needy homeless from those who just pretend to be panhandlers which I would personally love to have because I love to help others but I’d like to know that they are actually in need of food and care not just panhandling because they don’t want to be stuck in a cubicle all day.

If this guy is for real, he is everything we need in this country. We have so many starving, homeless people on our own streets that we need to feed and if they can work for what they earn and provide for themselves, maybe we can help not only feed them but allow them to feel/be productive in society. That is a genuine win win situation for all of us. I find his entrepreneurial sense refreshing. He’s not giving up on himself, he’s reinventing himself within his circumstances.

What do you think of Honest Abe and the business of being homeless?

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Latina, Latinas, Stereotypes, DEvious maids, Latinos, racism, business

What do you think of when you hear the word Latina?

The stereotypes are out of control. In fact, if you Google “Latina” every photo is of a hot, caramel colored girl in a tiny bikini, sometimes leaning over a lowrider or laying in bed. Oh and there are a couple of pregnant women surrounded by 12 kids. Go ahead. There is nothing you can say that will shock me. My husband likes to joke that he thought I’d be a little more Sophia Vergara and a little less Julie Bowen of Modern Family.

Latina, Latinas, Stereotypes, DEvious maids, Latinos, racism, business


We have all heard the Latina stereotypes: voluptuous, passionate and hot-tempered Latinas. We fight to make up. We have lots of kids because of all the sex and Catholic refusal to believe in birth control. We all have thick accents and we live to serve our controlling husbands and walk our Chihuahua dogs. When we are not in the kitchen cooking from scratch in our high heels, we are in the bedroom working on another bebé.  We are all nannies and mothers. You could believe this and it could be true in some cases, because even a broken clock is right twice a day but mostly, you would be dead wrong.

Latina is not a color.I have been assumed to be everything but Latina on several occasions: Caucasian is the immediate go to, if they notice that I don’t exactly fit the stereotype for Latina. I have dark brown hair, light brown eyes, fair-skin and not immediately identifiable features. My mom is Southern by way of Ireland, France, Italy, England and the Cherokee nation. Then the guessing begins. Italian? Greek? Jewish? It makes me feel as if those guessing think I’m anything other than what I actually am: Latina on my father’s side.

OK, I am just going to say it, I am a fair skinned Latina woman; possibly the whitest Latina you may well ever meet. I get it. It might be a little bit confusing for those who don’t realize that, like every other race, we come in every single color of the rainbow, with different combinations of hair and eye color and varying degrees of assimilation. We are not all the same. We don’t look the same. We don’t talk the same. We don’t come from the same place and we certainly, don’t all fit some concocted cartoonish stereotype. My daughters are beautiful with blonde hair and blue eyes, if you ask them what they are, they will tell you, “I am Latina!” Because, they are and it’s that simple.

Latina, Latinas, Stereotypes, DEvious maids, Latinos, racism, business, motherhood, raising daughters

Some are true. I think as a group many of us are loud, passionate people who place a great value on the family unit but not all of us.  Many of us are determined, handworkers who demand respect and take pride in our work, no matter how menial the task. We want to succeed and we’ve always had to work for it; from the farms to gaining respect in a new country so we are not afraid to work our asses off for what we want.

For many of us, failure is not an option. When, in business, I am asked to be “more” Latina that bothers me. I am not insulted because I am proud of being Latina. But I am offended that you have the nerve to ask me to prove that I fit into YOUR idea of who I should be. How do I quantify myself to meet your expectations? Would you ask a homosexual to be “more gay” or an African-American to be “more black”? I don’t think so.

I totally get that if I market myself as a Latina blogger, people expect me to be Latina and I am. It took me a long time to take ownership of that because I had spent so much time in my life feeling like I had to prove it. But when you ask me to be “more Latina” that insinuates that you don’t want me to be Latina, you want me to fit some misguided idea that you have of what it is to be “Latina”.You want more “spice”. That bothers me.

Latina, Latinas, Stereotypes, DEvious maids, Latinos, racism, business I am first generation Mexican American. I speak Spanish. I grew up immersed in the Latino culture. I may not have been born in Mexico, but my father was. I will not apologize for not meeting your stereotype. I don’t speak with an accent and every thing I do is not overtly “Latin” in nature because you know what Latin people are? We are just PEOPLE, just like you.

Well, maybe not like you (the person asking Latinos to prove their Latino-ness) because I am pretty sure you are an asshole and you might even be a little bit of a racist, or just really ignorant to my culture. We are not all built like Sophia Vergara (though I wish we were). We are not all oversexed, tequila drinking, hot-tempered caramel colored taco eaters who dance Cumbia. Well, mostly I am, with the exception of the caramel colored skin but many are not.


What’s the stupidest thing anyone has ever asked you based on a stereotype Latina or otherwise?

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