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A Homeless Man Was Given $100,000 As A Social Experiment

Tom Sanders

| Last updated 

A Homeless Man Was Given $100,000 As A Social Experiment

It's a scenario that everybody down on their luck has probably considered at some point - 'what would I do if I stumbled upon a briefcase full of money just lying in the road?'.

Well back in 2005 a homeless man named Ted Rodrigue did just that; finding himself in possession of a briefcase full of crisp, new $20 and $50 bills totalling up to $100,000 dollars and being told he could do whatever he wanted with the money - provided he let a documentary crew film the results.

What happened next subsequently became the backbone of the controversial documentary, Reversal of Fortune.


The opportunity originally came courtesy of screenwriter Wayne Powers, whose frequent dealings with LA's sizable homeless population caused him to wonder "What would happen if I gave a homeless person a million dollars? Would the sudden windfall help them change their lives for the better, or would it just make them worse?"

After gaining funding for the project from TV network Showtime (but having his budget slashed to 'just' $100k along the way), Powers sought out Ted after feeling like he was a good guy who had been dealt a bad hand in life and deserved a second chance, and after a brief screening process to confirm that he was drug-free, hid the briefcase in a nearby dumpster with a note that read 'What would a homeless person do if he found $100,000?'.

The then 45-year-old Rodrigue, who had been homeless for two decades at that point and survived on around $20 a day by collecting cans and bottles, was initially suspicious of the premise, later claiming: "I thought I was going to get shot. I thought it was drug money. Then I thought it was a prop for the movie, and I would have to give it back."

But once he was reassured by the filmmakers that the money was his to do with as he liked, the gravity of his cash windfall finally struck home.


From this moment on, the filmmakers didn't interfere with Ted's life or his spending in any way, merely observing and documenting his day-to-day life. They did, however, give Ted access to a financial advisor, whose advice he was free to solicit or ignore as he chose.

So what were the results?

Ted even appeared on Oprah to discuss the documentary. Credit: Oprah
Ted even appeared on Oprah to discuss the documentary. Credit: Oprah

After starting out slowly, treating himself to a new bike and a room in a motel, Ted's spending quickly started to spiral out of control, as he started spending money lavishly and ignoring the advice of his financial advisor.


After helping out some of his homeless friends Ted found himself becoming increasingly popular with women, (including one that he would briefly marry), but soon found himself becoming resentful of the unwanted attention.

"The women were just flocking all over. I'd walk out of the bar just to get away from everything and they'd just follow me out. It's not about me. It's about the money. I know that. I'm not f*&king stupid."

Next he found himself reconnecting with his estranged family who seemed to genuinely want to help him. His sisters even making phone calls on his behalf to help find him work doing something he liked, like construction.

Ted, however, didn't appreciate their efforts - not liking them trying to meddle with his life, as he saw it. He brushed off their concern and even refused to continue meeting with his financial advisor, believing that he just wanted his money like most everyone else.


Ted eventually revealed that he had no intention of finding work, believing that the $100,000 would last him for the rest of his life, and started spending even more lavishly- spending $34,000 on a new truck and leasing himself a luxury apartment.

In no time at all the money was gone and Ted was right back where he started, having blown through the entire amount in just over 6 months and was once again homeless. "You never think ... 'the money's going to run out sooner or later'." He revealed in an interview two years later.

Ted's current whereabouts are unknown, and though he did appear resentful about the whole situation he did admit that he was at least very content to once again be homeless and back where he started.

Studies have shown that Lotto winners often go broke within 3-5 years and in this instance, it appears that Ted was no different.

Featured Image Credit: Youtube

Topics: Interesting, US News, Homelessness

Tom Sanders
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