Pimp This Bum: It’s not what you think
How a local website has changed the face of the fight against homelessness
After starting an internet marketing company, Ascendgence, Kevin and Sean Dolan, a father and son team, decided to prove their effectiveness by creating a campaign to show that they could successfully drive attention to wherever they targeted. Their new project: PimpThisBum.com. They knew the name would induce visions of bum fights or worse, and either piss people off or make them laugh, but either way, it would stay in their minds.
“We knew that the same campaign with a sincere appeal, and a website like ‘helpthehomeless.com’ would be ignored. We knew that if we insulted people’ sensitivity or appealed to their humor on a subject as sensitive as this, we would get their attention,” says Kevin Dolan, the father portion of the team.
Growing up as an Eagle Scout, his son Sean had always been active in the charitable sense, and while they were initially going to use a local Katy business as their case study, Sean had a different idea. And within a few months it was a success with 2.5 million visitors to the site. Their first recruit was a man named Tim Edwards. I watched the documentary style video on the homepage and saw a man who was humorous yet poignant, with a full beard, kind eyes, and a soft matter of fact voice, who seemed to be wanting nothing more than a chance to change his circumstances. In a losing battle against depression and alcoholism, he had found himself homeless and begging for money, a life he had lived for five years before PimpThisBum.com found him. After gaining news coverage, both locally and nationally, Tim has a new lease on life. Through the site they soon raised over $50,000 and the Sunray Treatment Center in Washington allowed Tim to enter their recovery program free of charge.
It’s the night before he leaves for therapy. Tim is sitting on the bed of a motel room, looking into a red heart-shaped compact mirror while he shaves off his long overgrown beard. Over the buzz of the electric razor he says with determination, “”I’m back in the fight. I’m tired of laying down. I’m tired of giving up. This life, it’s worth fighting for. It’s worth fighting for.”
After he is freshly shaved, head and all, the Dolans read a letter to Tim from a man who had seen the news coverage and thought he might be his long lost cousin. Tim’s mother and father had split up when he was just a small boy and though he lived with his mother, they too found themselves homeless for some time. She passed away several years ago, before he became homeless, and with all of his family gone, there was no one left to let down. The letter said his father had passed away a few years back, but there was still a big family left in Missouri and Tennessee and they all missed him. There is footage of his reunion with his father’s family, including an uncle and aunt and a brood of little cousins. He also met his father’s best friend who gave him his father’s old harmonica.
“Bandmaster De Luxe Chromatic,” he says with a sad smile holding it up for the camera.
After six weeks in rehab he returned to Houston and started hosting a nightly live web chat show online and on his 38th birthday the PTB chatroom folks bought him a new laptop. There is footage of this too and it is by far one of the most touching moments hearing him say that it was his best birthday ever.
I spoke with Sean, who lives with Tim at an extended stay motel. Tim now has job working as a machinist and carpenter and recently completed a project building scale models for an oil industry trade show. He is receiving life coaching courtesy of Balance Health and Wellness Center and with help from the donations, one of Tim’s homeless friends, Bobby, has also taken control of his own life and found a job as a barista at a local cafe. They are celebrating their first paychecks together with a party at Cafe Cafe on the west side.
The last shot in the video is of Tim sitting at his newly found cousin Deb’s house in Nashville, where he stayed for three months after his stint in rehab. He is sitting on a bench outside of a garden home. It is a beautiful day with flowers in bloom and birds chirping noisily over his low voice.
He looks healthy and handsome, with a jaw that looks strong enough to crush rocks. Wearing a crisp button down and slacks, he is speaking directly to other homeless people like him, but his advice is sage enough for anyone to heed.
“Don’t give up. God made the way, but I had to actually do the work. I had to get up and start walkin’. Now I get to walk into the sunset and face new challenges.”
And he is no longer alone as he meets new challenges, as he now has a cheer section of millions of friends and fans across the nation.
Meet Tim and Sean live and join the conversation Monday-Friday at 8pm central and Saturdays at 12pm at www.PimpThisBum.com
For more on PimpThisBum.com, a no-profit charity, and how you can be a part of this success story please visit www.FreePressHouston.com