Homeless on a Billboard

June 12th, 2010 by Kathy McManus

A Texas charity aims high to raise awareness, but irks some in the process.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

When an Austin charity called Mobile Loaves and Fishes wanted to raise awareness about homelessness, they hoisted a homeless man named Danny 50 feet in the air to live for two days on the catwalk of a billboard towering over a Texas interstate.

The billboard featured a gigantic arrow pointing at Danny, and according to Good, “a simple series of declarations—‘I am Danny. I am homeless. I am here’—and a number to which drivers could text $10 donations.” Reaching a $12,000 goal allowed Mobile Loaves and Fishes to buy a used mobile home for Danny and his sick wife to live in.

But is there “something off,” Good asked, about putting a homeless man on such public display? “Danny was living on the streets and no one was worried about him,” said a representative of the ad agency that helped create the billboard event. “Not much has changed except he is 50 feet higher and people are taking notice.”

Not everyone liked what they saw, however. The Austin-American Statesman reported that Danny admitted being homeless for 15 years, blaming “drinking and ‘being hard-headed’” for much of his situation. “I watched this dude climb a 30 ft. ladder with no guardrails to get to the top of the billboard on TV,” one reader wrote. “He can get a friggin job.” “Why do we reward people who choose to do the wrong thing?” another said. “Most of us pay our taxes, work hard and do the right thing…never to get help.”