Help me be nice withoutbeing patronizing
June 14, 2006 12:37 PM   Subscribe

I have hired a very nice man to help me paint my apartment, now what?

There is a very nice, polite homeless man that lives underneath the overpass where I work. I share my smokes and whatever money I have on me, and he always makes sure to tell me that is not the gig he wants and is trying to escape this. He asked me if I had any work to do and it so happens I do.

I am going to pay him 20/hr to help me paint, now what? I feel like I should probably pick him up dinner and offer him drinks. Do I drive him back to the overpass, he is "out and about" frequently, give him a public transit token so he can go where he wants? Pick him up some toiletries while he is working?

I don't want him to feel bad or like I am patronizing him, he has made it clear that he wants to be treated like anyone else I would hire to paint. Any ideas?
posted by stormygrey to Work & Money (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know, I would pay him the $20/hr, offer him a meal if you feel so inclined, and if you want to drop him off somewhere, you can ask him where he wants to be dropped off, or giving him a token is a nice gesture. I think giving him a bag of toiletries might be kind of patronizing, though I know your intention is a good one. With $20/hr for a day, he should be able to pick up what he needs.
posted by tastybrains at 12:39 PM on June 14, 2006

treat him like your normal hired help. driving him in and out is fine.. that's just a nice jesture for anyone.
I wouldn't go any further though.. unless he asks for more help...(if you think he is nice enough person..) but just a minimal help that wouldn't be inconvient for you.
posted by curiousleo at 12:40 PM on June 14, 2006

he always makes sure to tell me that is not the gig he wants and is trying to escape this

uh uh.

OK, let's take stock of the situation. You're a young, single female woman in a major city (I assume you're still in Atlanta), possibly living alone. This nice homeless guy tells you it's "not his gig" because you give him money and cigarettes. You're inviting this guy into your apartment, presumably with no one else around?

All due respect, but I think that's a bit nuts. Do you really know this guy at all? Sure, your instinct may be correct and he'll do a good-enough job. Or he might lift some possessions. Or worse.

But, if you're dead-set on doing this- pay him the wage, offer him a meal if you're working through one. Pay for his transit. I wouldn't drive him anywhere.
posted by mkultra at 12:55 PM on June 14, 2006

Treat him like he was a buddy helping you paint for free:

Order a pizza or something and share it with him while you're painting. That's something that's normal to do if friends were helping you paint. Breaking out a six pack while painting would be perfectly normal too.

Painting can be messy. Offer him use of your shower or laundry afterwards if you want. That should also be pretty normal, I think...
posted by giantfist at 12:55 PM on June 14, 2006

no one likes taking charity- even if they are forced to do it to survive. i thnk sharing a meal would be fine, but 'giving him food' would be embarassing. but do pay him well and see if any of your friends have jobs they need done too
posted by petsounds at 12:56 PM on June 14, 2006

and in response to mkultra, i think that response was really arrogant. presumably she knows this person better than you and is therefore the better judge of their character. just because someone is in a worse-off situation doesnt mean you cant share cigarettes with them, spend time in their presence, or god forbid let them into your apartment
posted by petsounds at 1:00 PM on June 14, 2006

Treat it as a professional relationship if you must do it. Ordering a pizza would be the farthest I would go. You don't want to be in a position where this guy starts taking advantage of you.

Try and make it safe at least? Take the homelessness out of the equation and it sounds like you're trying to score a date. If it sounds like you're trying to score a date to me, on this web site, then it will certainly seem like it to him. I'm not saying he will act on it, but you do realize he's entertained the possibility that you're into him. Normal people deal with it, crazy people don't. At least take some minimal precautions when having him over.
posted by geoff. at 1:08 PM on June 14, 2006

Question for giantfist..... Do you often offer general contractors or handymen the use of your shower and laundry facitilites when they're done working?

Sounds odd to me.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 1:11 PM on June 14, 2006

I think that $20 an hour plus tip would cover everything. You can offer him a ride, too.

If you are going to be alone with him in your apartment, I suggest you let some people know and perhaps arrange for someone else to be there with you. Whenever I hire any tradesperson -- even those who've been referred and are listed in the Yellowpagess -- I let a few people know their contact details, try to have someone with me when the person arrives, and arrange for someone to check in on me during the day. I think this is a precaution you should take with any person who comes to your home, regardless of who they are or who you are. It has nothing to do with where the person sleeps at night.
posted by acoutu at 1:13 PM on June 14, 2006

mkultra posted what I almost posted myself, and put it better than I would.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:16 PM on June 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

Homelessness != crazy, drug-addicted womanizing rapist. Inzane, I know!

That said, I would have someone else in the apartment with you while he's doing the painting--same way I'd recommend it if you had anyone doing handiwork around your home. Order a pizza, offer to give him a ride, and tell him if he needs anything else you're glad to help.
posted by schroedinger at 1:19 PM on June 14, 2006

No, I would not offer those things to general contracters. I also wouldn't help them do a job I was paying them to do, and I wouldn't offer them food or give them a ride.

But this guy isn't a general contracter and it sounded like she wanted to do a little more for him than just pay him.

Which is why I said that she could treat him more like a friend who was helping with the painting, a situation in which food, beer, shower, or laundry would be pretty normal (to me anyway).
posted by giantfist at 1:20 PM on June 14, 2006

You pay him the agreed upon price, you offer him refreshments while he's working, and you give him a tip at the end and refer him to your friends if you are sufficiently impressed by the work he does. Anything above and beyond that is charity, not a job. Not that there's anything wrong with charity... but it sounds like what the guy wants is a job. I've never had a job where the boss picked me up, dropped me off, fed me and did my laundry.

And homeless or not -- don't leave him alone in your apartment. Just don't.
posted by spilon at 1:20 PM on June 14, 2006

Arrogant how? This is a serious question. Do you think it is a good idea for single women to invite homeless men alone to their apartment?
posted by mkultra at 1:22 PM on June 14, 2006

I've used these kind of laborers before and the results have ranged from excellent to poor.

Offer him something to eat right away in case he needs it, he can work better that way. Leave yourself an out, like "I'm not sure about the color, let's do the baseboards first." That way if he starts slathering paint on the carpet, you can gracefully stop without saying it was all a big mistake.

Sometimes certain people have trouble keeping the work flowing, so instruct him one stage of the job at a time. Some people will finish one task and then just kind of stand there until given another.

He'll have cash after you pay him, so I wouldn't offer him an old toothbrush or anything. I might say something like "any interest in this jacket?" but only if its a nice one that I would feel comfortable wearing myself.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:24 PM on June 14, 2006

arrogant as in not knowing the person and his situation/story, which she does, but assuming hes a theif or rapist because they are homeless
posted by petsounds at 1:34 PM on June 14, 2006

Treat him like a friend who's just starting off a new business. That's what he is. So yes, I would provide food, offer him a shower and then a ride to wherever he wants to go.

I wouldn't offer him anything extra like toiletries as that could be construed as patronising. You can do that on a separate occasion - find out when his birthday is etc.

Just as crazy people aren't usually homeless, most homeless people aren't crazy - if you had any concerns about his mental health, I'm sure you wouldn't be inviting him into your home. Likewise for theft / rape etc.

Sounds like he wants to get back on his feet, but needs to get a break in order to do this, and what you're giving him, which is great. And if he does a good job, as petsounds says, offer to give him a reference and find out if any of your friends have work for him too.
posted by bella.bellona at 1:40 PM on June 14, 2006

1. Don't be alone with him. Take all your most valued items and stash them before he shows up. Seriously, My mom was ripped of by her nurse, so who knows what a guy living under a bridge might do.
2. Do offer a cold soda or water, and if You just so happen to be ordering/making lunch offer some to him.
3. Don't tip, you're paying him. Of course if he does an above average (well above your expectations) I would say hey, you know what, a real pro would have charged me a heck of a lot more, here's an extra $$
4. Take a few moments to talk with him, encourage him to get back on his feet and into a new 'gig'
posted by Gungho at 1:45 PM on June 14, 2006

assuming hes a theif or rapist because they are homeless

First of all, I'm not making this assumption, but I think the poster is approaching this a bit naively and needs to be reminded that the possibility is there. I'm sure that in your hometown of Candy Land, the homeless folks are all upstanding citizens who are just a bit unlucky, but back in reality, the homeless population in urban centers often prey on the goodwill of others.

Second, if you're going to put words in my mouth, do me a favor and use a spell- and grammar-checker.
posted by mkultra at 1:45 PM on June 14, 2006

Um, isn't this how the Elizabeth Smart thing started? Not casting judgment here-- just saying that her mother helped out a homeless guy, and he turned out to be cuckoo. She probably thought he was harmless, too... just be really careful and invite over a random big burly guy to be your fake cousin staying for the weekend.
posted by orangemiles at 1:56 PM on June 14, 2006

Please do have somebody else there when you have him over. It may not be necessary but in my experience women think being civil and polite = being civil and polite. While men in general think being civil and polite = a come-on. I know, it's a generalization and we're all beautiful unique snowflakes and whatnot, but I'd have a guy friend there anyway.
posted by selfmedicating at 1:57 PM on June 14, 2006

Ok, thanks for the advice. I work around a lot of crazy homeless, this is not one of them. He is working in the apartment that is the basement of my house, so there is nothing to take and he is doing an awesome job. I can't cut in by the ceiling without tape!

To set aside any fears, my fiancee and his dad are up here working with me on another project, so there is no saftey concerns that I can discern.

BTW, picking up a date? "Excuse me sir, would you, uh, like to come paint my house, wink, wink? I must be out of the loop on that one. :)
posted by stormygrey at 2:03 PM on June 14, 2006

Treat him as professionally as possible, for two reasons.
1) It's less condescending/handout-y
2) So that he is reminded of what to expect from a professional relationship. Hopefully, this will have the added bonus of helping him be more capable/confident about working for other people in the future.

Cold drinks, absolutely. Also, StickyCarpet makes a good point about having something to eat at the start. Tokens would be nice. No shower or laundry, though -- that's too personal for someone you've hired as a contractor.

As long as you keeping this all on a very professional level (you're hiring him, you're the boss, this is not the time to pal arond) he should be safe from developing wild conclusions about your intentions. (Unless there's some reason for him to do so that you haven't mentioned, like having had really very personal/intimate conversations with him.) Though I'm sure that someone will assert that it is completely impossible for any woman to ever be taken seriously and we're all deluding ourselves that it is possible to safely conduct any business transaction with a man.
posted by desuetude at 2:44 PM on June 14, 2006

BTW, picking up a date? "Excuse me sir, would you, uh, like to come paint my house, wink, wink? I must be out of the loop on that one. :)

I honestly though the same thing (picking up a date) when I read through some of the postings and realized that you're a girl. *shrug*

After he finishes up on this project, the best thing you can do for the guy is to refer him to friends, family, or other people in the area.
posted by drkrdglo at 3:53 PM on June 14, 2006

stormgrey, you make it sound like this is more than a ordinary contractor/client relationship. If you are willing to offer him extra help, beyond the paycheck, choose your boundaries before the work starts. For instance, don't offer up a shower and laundry, because it is, as others have noted, a little condescending; but know what your response will be if he asks (or hints) to avoid awkward moments. I think issues like that are best left to you because you know the extent of your feelings of charity, compassion, and comfort with this person.

In my personal experience, homeless people have a lot to give and very little to lose. They are fervently loyal to those who are willing to see past their predicament and share their own fortunes such as money, smokes, or whatnot. My guess is that this guy would sooner step in front of a car for you before he steals from you or hurts you.

This does not mean, however, that he is a good painter. Keep an eye on his work.
posted by peeedro at 6:28 PM on June 14, 2006

One thing that might be handy is some paper coveralls. They're, like, $3, but they keep paint off clothes pretty well.
posted by klangklangston at 7:38 AM on June 15, 2006

If he is working on a seperate apartment from your home, the use of the shower would be no big deal.

The fact that the work is being done in an apartment that you don't live in means that you can be more personable without the risk of having a stranger in your home.
posted by Megafly at 4:31 PM on June 15, 2006

« Older Advice on Bloomington, Indiana   |   Good, non-big-name bands playing Roskilde Festival Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.