The Millionaire and the Squatter

Originally an idea for “professional philanthropic development”, Michael—a multi-millionaire who’s giving away $78m over a 10 year period—lived with a homeless Chicago man for one weekend. Freakonomics covers the story in Michael, Meet Curtis: Philanthropy Gets Personal.

Curtis cooked another plate of chicken and beans. He was about to eat it, but once again he offered it to Michael. This time Michael accepted. Michael looked overwhelmed; his face was perspiring. Curtis refilled his coffee and gave Michael one of his cigarettes to calm him down.

“Not everyone lives like this,” I said. “And don’t feel bad for Curtis.”

“No!” Curtis exclaimed. “Don’t pity me,” he said, pouring some whiskey in Michael’s coffee. “This will help you sleep tonight…” Curtis lit a cigarette and leaned back on his busted plastic chair. “Just understand that you got to be creative. Even if you got a home, you still got to pay rent — so you take in somebody now and then. Maybe you let your friend stay in the house and they watch your kid, or clean up, or pay you…” Curtis kept on talking. Michael kept on eating.