A Week on the Street: Homeless in America, Your Turn

A Week on the Street: Homeless in America, Your Turn
A pitch for a new TV reality show

Five dollars, the clothes on your back, no cell phone, dropped off in a Midwestern city that’s new to you, challenged to survive, not get robbed, raped, or injured, find free food and safe places to sleep, and get yourself set up with a legal way to make money and a roof over your head in one week. One week. $50,000 prize.

You’d enter a contest like that, wouldn’t you?

You could put those great camping skills honed for years in the great north woods to use under a freeway bridge or in the park down by the railroad tracks. Oh wait, you won’t have a tent or your Coleman stove. You won’t have anything but $5. You probably won’t even have matches.

Fortunately, there are a lot of services set up for homeless people in this country. You can get shelter and food and health care and help finding a job. So it’s all cool. But be sure to bring your I.D. They’ll want to know who you are so they can run a criminal background check. You haven’t ever done anything wrong, right? Oh nuts, I forgot, you won’t have any I.D. You only have $5. Which you’ve probably spent by now.

The time will go fast. Just be sure to tell people who you really are, who you were last week. Tell them you had a house and a job, maybe a nice family and a lot of hobbies. They’ll check those boxes on the intake forms to make the case that homelessness is now affecting the middle class. You can try to tell them that you’re different than real homeless people but by then you will pretty much be looking like the next guy in line and probably smelling like him, too. Bummer.

So what do you think? Would you watch? Instead of Donald Trump’s apprentices running around New York creating new flavors of gelato or naked people running around Borneo, A Week on the Street would follow real people on real American streets figuring out how to keep their shit together without having any money, shelter, or friends. It’s a dynamite idea. It could even have an audience voting component — who’s being the best homeless person?

It’s exciting what homeless folks have to do to survive. It would make a great TV show. Really.

Written in response to a Write on Edge prompt to pitch a TV pilot.

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