In a gesture meant to regain the trust of the American people, Wall Street investment firms, insurance companies, and banks are literally opening their offices to those they made homeless.
Initially, the firms were going to require people to bring in a copy of their foreclosed mortgage, pension statements, or other investments Wall Street has made worth less than the paper they were printed on. Since that proved too time-consuming for staff to process, the program has simply been opened to all the homeless though they still must bring their own blanket and pillow.
Trip Caine of AIG explains the thinking behind the program, "I and most other people I know got into finance to help people fulfill the American Dream and pull themselves up by their bootstraps, so we really feel a profound sense of guilt and personal responsibility for the damage
our schemes have caused, and we wanted to give something back."
"At first, we didn't know what we could do, but then we realized we have so much space in these nice offices, and a lot of people could use it as a place to sleep at night or even crash out during the day without really getting in our way," Caine added.
Word of mouth quickly spread on the street, and grateful former members of the middle class began to find their way to the offices of AIG, Goldman Sachs, Merril Lynch, Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorganChase, and others.
Some smaller firms were saddened that few arrived at their offices because of their lack of name recognition, so they started putting bumper stickers on their town cars and limos that said, "Follow me to sleep for free." Eventually, the homeless started following all limos into parking garages. Most execs don't mind if the homeless hop in their limo for a nap while it's idling outside some meeting or stuck in traffic.
One hitch that has occurred is offices widespread use of restroom keys. Execs were loathe to give up this perk and simply leave the door unlocked for anyone, so they simply look the other way when the homeless defecate in their plants and waste baskets. In areas where there are no public restrooms, transients are even encouraged to duck into the lobby of their buildings to defecate. Doorman Bob Denning said he didn't mind the smell and added, "I wouldn't want to bare my ass outdoors on a cold day like this. Not only that, it's worth it just to see some of the suits step in what they did to the rest of us."
When protesters started showing up outside AIG executives homes, one exec realized he could defray some of the anger by offering protesters the guest wing of their house to live in. Soon others followed suit and the practice became universal.
Likewise, exclusive athletic clubs are opening their doors to anyone who needs a shower, massage, and some time in the jacuzzi, and country clubs are allowing people living in their RVs to park on their golf courses. "We can't be elitists at a time like this, we have to be Americans first," said Hal Stark, president of Chatham Hollow Country Club. "Our members realize they used laws and infrastructure of this country to acquire their massive wealth and it is only right if they give some back in this time of need."
One question that arose surprisingly rarely was when this open door policy would end. Trip Caine of AIG was philosophical. "I don't know if it should. When I come home from the office and see Garth and Jennifer Puckett, the family staying with us, struggling to find a job or figure out how to pay for their kids to go to the doctor or send them to college, it really puts things in perspective for me. My actions have hurt real people. If they leave, I might forget that."
Wall Street's earlier effort to feed the homeless