For $2,000 you can take a pretty sweet vacation. Or you can just hang out in Seattle, for two nights and three days, and live the life of a homeless person. Mike Momany is charging $2,000 a person to experience homelessness first hand. Something the former web developer and entrepreneur has been doing himself lately.
"I've always observed it and I've always wondered about it. So I sold my motorhome about three months ago and kind of forced myself into homelessness. I've been living virtually homeless for the last two and a half months."
Mike says the tour is aimed at wealthy people who donate to homeless causes, so they can see what street life is really like. Only he doesn't like the word 'tour.'
"I call it applied homelessness, a course in applied homelessness. Somebody can't just call me up and say, 'I want to take a tour.' I start with an interview of the person. I want them to learn about me and I want to learn about them."
If you're approved, Mike will spend a day transforming you.
"Don't take a shower for three days, don't shave, mess up your hair, get your dirtiest work clothes out and keep your mouth shut on the streets. Listen and learn."
Then he'll take you to homeless hubs in Pioneer Square, a spot under the viaduct and a park in Capitol Hill.
"I suggest to the client that if they have enough chutzpah they can try their hand at pan handling or sleeping on a bench and just see how people react to you."
You'll go out to eat at the Recovery Cafe and Farestart.
"As just a final thing, I kinda wanna take them to some of the finer restaurants that are up on Queen Anne. Just test their dress code. See how many we can get kicked out of."
But you won't be staying in an actual shelter.
"Another issue that's constantly coming up is that I'm using up homeless resources. And I'm not using any homeless resources. I do mention that we're going to a shelter. It's not truly a shelter, it's a hostel. It's the absolute cheapest hostel in Seattle that looks like a shelter. It's actually run like a shelter. You have to be in by seven and out by seven in the morning."
Mike says he's been bombarded with calls from media all over the world and hatemail from social service agencies but not many requests to take his course in applied homelessness. Perhaps that has something to do with the cost?
"I actually started at lower rates in my mind and built it up to the two thousand because as I analyzed what I have to do to do it, it's what it's going to cost. There are security issues."
But when pressed about security, there doesn't seem to be any.
"Two thousand wouldn't cover it if I had to insure you. So it will probably be more like a bungee cord jump. You'd assume all responsibility. Get your own insurance. All I can do is tell you my security measures that I'll be instituting. I think I have some pretty good ones. I've never been accosted myself. A lot of it just has to do with how you deal with people. If you get arrogant and snappy back to people, you're going to draw a fight."
Mike is surprisingly cheery about being homeless.
"If you're going to be homeless, be homeless in Seattle. It's the best place in the world. I went to dinner at the senior center in The [Pike Place] Market. On Monday nights they give away a free dinner to anybody. It's the best food I've had in a long time. It's amazing the food that homeless people can get in Seattle. All these fine restaurants we have, they donate to the food banks. You'd be amazed if you went to the food banks, what is coming out. I remember Seattle 20 years ago, when Real Change started up, the homeless newspaper. There used to be a column called the Dumpster Gourmet. Now I talk to homeless people and they go, 'Diving Dumpsters? Well, you don't have to.'"
So far the tour (sorry Mike!) is only for men since the hostel is men only. But he says he's trying to arrange a tour with some college girls in New York who contacted him. My opinion: ladies, please don't spend $2,000 to fly across the country and spend three days on the street with a strange man.
Check out Mike's tour, Sub Urban Experience.