LANSING, Mich. – Jesse Dyer has become the face of panhandling along the lakeshore.
There are pictures of Dyer, 20, all over social media, as he worked major intersections between Holland and South Haven.
He was even caught on video as he was confronted by supporters of the West Michigan Hardly Homeless Panhandlers group on Facebook. The say he’s just a scammer.
Dyer agreed to meet with FOX 17 in Lansing, where he was visiting family where he can now escape the negative publicity from panhandling in West Michigan.
“They don`t know me,” said Dyer. “They don`t understand what I go through every day. They`re just out to get Facebook famous.”
Dyer and his father have been approached by people who believe they are not homeless and simply taking advantage of others’ good will.
“I think people can say what they want,” Dyer said. “People can try and hurt me. People can try to hurt all the homeless, but as long as I survive every day, they can`t break me. I`ve been broken too many times before.”
Dyer believes some of the criticism resulted from people witnessing his dad driving a truck.
“That`s my grandpa`s truck,” said Dyer. “My dad sleeps in it every night. Just ‘cuz I got a truck, just ‘cuz I got a place to stay, it does not mean I’m not homeless. Until I have a home of my own, I’m homeless.”
For now, Dyer occasionally visits family in Lansing but lives with friends in Holland. He insists it’s just a place where he can rest his head, but only if he can pay.
“I stay with somebody for $30 a night, when I can get enough,” Dyer said. If he doesn’t get enough, he sleeps outside, he says. “I`ve made about $70 in a day, but that don`t happen often,” said Dyer.
He usually collects $30 or $40 in a day.
Because he doesn’t want to over stay his welcome, Dyer usually showers in a campground.
“Every once in a while I take one at the place I stay, but usually just the campground,” Dyer said.
The 20-year-old generally carries with him all that he has, except for a few blankets and jackets that he keeps with friends in Holland.
“People gave me the clothes that I’m wearing,” said Dyer. “I`ve got about five shirts and two pairs of pants.”
He also has a cell phone. “The guy at the Metro PCS store hooked me up with a free phone and put me on a $40 plan,” Dyer said. “I`ve got to figure out the $40 in a few days so I can keep it on.”
Dyer told FOX 17 he is starting a job next week and will be holding a different sign, one that reads, “We buy gold.”
He is also anticipating a call from Michigan Works!, which is helping him get signed up to finish school and earn his GED.