Posted: May 23, 2007 in Friendship, Goals, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Panhandling


I don’t know who invented it or when, but it certainly has a lot of uses. It comes in a wide assortment of shapes, sizes, thickness and even color.

The type of cardboard that most people are familiar with are cardboard boxes. They get used for almost every purpose conceivable. People pack, ship and store things in cardboard boxes. Poster boards are made from cardboard, although it is different from the type used in making boxes. Shipping pallets often times have cardboard "sheets" that separate the various layers of items.  

The homeless have learned how to use cardboard to their benefit as well.

Some of the homeless use cardboard boxes as make shift houses, others use cardboard as a type of mattress. I’ve even seen some who use cardboard as windscreens around their camps. And then of course, many homeless use cardboard as a way of making "signs" for panhandling, which makes sense when you think about it. Cardboard, which is rigid, is far more durable than a flimsy piece of paper.

Some of the homeless I’ve seen "flying a sign" try using lighter colored pieces of cardboard. Others don’t really care so long as it achieves the desired result of getting them the money for their daily bread, or daily beer, or whatever.

I’ve used cardboard as a sign to panhandle with. And for the longest time, I carried my sign around with me everywhere I went. If it the sign was too badly worn or "weather beaten" I’d simply hunt around in various dumpsters and find another piece of the size and shape I wanted, or I’d cut down a piece to the size I wanted.

I’ve seen a number of different slogans on the signs that the homeless use on their signs: everything from "Will Work For Food" to "Old Man Down And Out."

I’ve used three different slogans on the signs I’ve held: "Generosity Is Appreciated," "Homeless And Just Trying To Survive," and the most recent, "Homelessness Can Afflict Anyone."

Don’t ask me why I didn’t use the "old standards" like everyone else, I don’t really know. I certainly wasn’t trying to make a political or social statement. Perhaps I chose those three phrases because I’ve always resisted the idea of my own homelessness. Becoming homeless wasn’t something I had hoped to become. Even when I knew that I was on the verge of becoming homeless, I did everything I could think of to stave it off. But, it happened nonetheless. Sigh.

Although I don’t have any of my original signs, I still have a working replica of "Homelessness Can Afflict Anyone." Alas, the one I had was damaged by rain and feel apart – at lease proverbially speaking – at the seams. And, since I still had a need to do some panhandling from time to time, I had to make a new one.

One of the homeless told me that making a new sign wasn’t a good idea. They told me that if the sign looks too good I wouldn’t get any "hits." I don’t know about that. I never did get a large amount of hits anyway.

I’ve heard all of the myths and legends of panhandlers making a couple of hundred dollars a day. You can chalk that up to wishful thinking. Nobody I know was (or is) making that amount of money per day handling.

If I were having a good day I might end up with around $25 or $30. Admittedly, there have been a couple of times when I had a really good day, but times like that – at least for me – were a rarity rather than the rule.

There is a new piece of cardboard that I carry around with me now. It’s absolutely blank. It’s not that big. It’s only about 7 inches wide and about 12 long. It’s not fancy, but it’s the about the right size for me to fit and sit my behind on. I use it as a type of seat cushion.

In the morning when I get up, I grab a cup of hot chocolate at the nearby Chevron and head out to one of several places where I know I can plug in my laptop and write the post for the day, then do some work before the library opens.

Before that I had been simply sitting on the concrete, but that was uncomfortable and cold. So, what I started doing was looking for a piece of cardboard while on the way to my "work" site. But that takes time away from the time that I can have my laptop plugged in and subsequently the amount of time that I can get something done.

In the end I found a piece that I figured would serve its purpose, and now, it gets carried around with my laptop everywhere I go.

I had hoped that I wouldn’t have to carry around a piece of cardboard any more, but right now for me it’s a necessity – especially if I want to keep from freezing my butt off. It isn’t the perfect solution, but for right now it’s adequate.

And, odd though it may seem, it actually gives me more incentive to try getting myself out of the homeless situation that I presently find myself. And hopefully then, I won’t have a homeless need for cardboard anymore.

Yep. People sure use cardboard for a variety of reasons – and don’t I know it.


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