I was watching Law and Order SVU tonight and I saw a character that seemed a lot like the Woo Woos that we used to have in San Francisco. Do they still exist in other cities?
The character in SVU was a "street guy" (homeless person) that had car keys for all the cars on the block, and supposedly he would move them to avoid street sweepers and other parking fines. In San Francisco a few years ago we used to have people called "Woo woos" (if memory serves). They would be homeless folks or those in SROs that would claim a couple blocks to look over. They would stand on a block and if it looked like you were looking to park, they would guide you to a parking place with a flashlight while saying "WOO WOO." It was a pretty great system. The Woo Woo would find you a parking spot, and then defend it against people that would break into your car (one of their services). If you gave them your phone number, they would call and tell you when the one or two hour parking limit is up, and you have to move your car before you get a ticket. If they were on a street with meters, you could give them a hand full of change and they would feed the meter until you got back. They would do all this on a tip based scale. If you had money and you felt they did you a solid, you would give them money. Somehow they found a way to divide streets into different Woo Woo territories. If they failed you, you didn't need to tip them. It was awesome, and would take a lot of the stress out of parking in a city where parking is horrible.
But it had to end. I'm not sure what the problem was. Maybe people felt upset at feeling obligated to give homeless people money for looking after their cars. Maybe it was costing the city too much because they weren't collecting enough money from parking tickets. Whatever reason, the SFPD decided to crack down on the Woo Woos so now there aren't any left. But after seeing this episode of SVU, it makes me wonder if there are any in other cities? Please let me know if there are entrepreneurial homeless folks in other towns.