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Apparent vagrant who turned down $10 per hour job sparks outcry

An apparent homeless man turned down a job offer that paid $10 an hour, sparking two lines of argument: He is ungrateful and lazy, or he is prudent for refusing what some consider a low-paying job.
An apparent homeless man turned down a job offer that paid $10 an hour, sparking two lines of argument: He is ungrateful and lazy, or he is prudent for refusing what some consider a low-paying job.

An apparent homeless man who reportedly turned down a job offer has sparked a cost-of-living debate on social media.

The backdrop: A Honda dealership in Brighton, Mich., placed a sign over the engine of one of its vehicles directing passersby not to give money to “this Panhandler.” The dealership reported offering the man a $10-an-hour job, which the man refused.

The man, according to the sign, said, “I make more than any of you.”

The dealership entreated potential donations to be redirected away from the man to a “more worthy cause.”

Morgan Holt posted a photo to her Facebook page under the caption: “Love it!” Many agreed with her, calling the man “pathetic” and “lazy” and speculating that he is on drugs, that he isn’t homeless and that other homeless people in the area weren’t actually veterans as they claimed.

But others contended the man was right to turn down the job.

“$10/hr is not near enough to survive,” wrote Heidi Lentz.

The comments raise questions about the wage necessary to afford the cost of living. Locally, the minimum wage falls short for many families to provide a sufficient income to live on, according to studies. And even $10 an hour falls short of a living wage in some areas.

In Missouri in 2017, an average person would have to work 81 hours per week at the state’s minimum wage of $7.70 to afford rent in a two-bedroom home, according to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Affordable rent is defined in the report as the “generally accepted standard of spending not more than 30% of gross income on gross housing costs.”

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The Kansas City metro area has the most expensive two-bedroom rental costs in the state. The housing wage, or wage necessary to rent a two-bedroom home, is $18.19. In St. Louis, the figure is $17.23. Other metropolitan areas in the study included Columbia ($14.85), Springfield ($13.60) and Jefferson City ($12.44).

An MIT professor, Amy Glasmeier, compiled average living costs and compared them to wages in 2017 throughout the country. She found that in the Kansas City area, an adult living alone must earn $10.45 or more to afford average living costs. Costs include food, medical expenses, housing, transportation and other expenses. One adult with a child in KC must make $21.59 or more for a living wage. Two adults with one working must earn $17.63.

In Kansas, where the minimum wage is $7.25, one would have to work 86 hours per week at minimum wage to afford a two-bedroom home. To afford a one-bedroom home, a person would need to work 1.7 full-time jobs at minimum wage.

The KC metro area is also the most expensive in the state of Kansas, with a housing wage of $18.19. Haskell County is the second-most expensive area, at $17.87. Other metro areas included in the report are Lawrence ($16.25), Wichita ($14.69) and Topeka ($14.62).

The report found that there is nowhere in the country where a person earning minimum wage could afford rent for a two-bedroom apartment, according to The Washington Post.

According to Glasmeier’s study, the living wage for one adult in Johnson County is $10.56. In Lawrence, it’s $10.28, and in Topeka, it’s $9.81.

In Livingston County, Michigan, where the apparent homeless man sought money near the dealership, the hourly wage necessary to afford rent for a two-bedroom home is $17.73. Livingston is the second-most expensive county in the state. To afford such costs, a person in Livingston would have to work two minimum wage jobs in order to pay rent. Minimum wage there is $8.90.

To afford a one-bedroom home in Livingston, a renter would need to make about $12.50 per hour.

“He is am [sic] unfortunate soul who does need our help,” wrote Andrea Greck of the apparent homeless man.

Kim Resconich also weighed in: “Let’s hope he gets the help he needs. Haven’t walked in those shoes, so no judging here.”

Danielle Simpson was in the first class of graduates from the Grooming Project, a school in Kansas City designed to train single mothers living in poverty to become dog groomers. The lifelong dog lover's dream almost did not become a reality as sh

Max Londberg: 816-234-4378, @MaxLondberg

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