Starbucks and the homeless

    • I have no solutions.
    • The price of wokeness
    • It is not good for any business to take sides in the culture wars.

In October 2022, Lizette Roman-Johnston published a TikTok saying that a Starbucks location she frequented had removed all the electrical outlets, in an effort to discourage “the homeless” from visiting the store.  This poses a real disadvantage to the “normies,” the majority of the client base, who rely on the outlets — Most Starbucks that I’ve seen have many, many outlets, just for this reason. — so they can stay “plugged in” while staying indefinitely at a Starbucks, using their laptops or whatever.

She said, “For those who don’t know, after years of trying to be the ‘woke’ coffee shop brand who supposedly accommodates the homeless, they said, ‘Nah, we hate the homeless more than we like the billions of customers who come into our store simply to work on their laptops.’”  I’m not so sure.  I’m not sure that Starbucks ever committed to accommodating the homeless; I’m not sure that Starbucks hates one group more than it loves the other.

The article I read about this[17] said that of those who commented on her TikTok, those who support Starbucks’ removing the outlets said the government, not Starbucks, should do more to meet the needs of the homeless.  I do not agree that the government needs to do more.  Nor do I hold that Starbucks, or anyone else, has any duty to accommodate us any differently than they do anyone else.

Removing the outlets won’t make any difference.  The issues are (1) whether non-customers can use the bathrooms, and (2) how long anyone can remain in the store without making purchases (sic).

It all began …

… on April 12, 2018.  Two black men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, sat in a Philadelphia Starbucks for a long time, without buying anything.[14]  They were waiting for a white real estate developer, Andrew Yaffe, to discuss some business opportunities.[8]  One of them came to need to use the bathroom; he asked for permission to do so; the manager asked if he intended to buy anything.  He said no; the manager denied him permission to use the bathroom.  The manager invited them to make purchases; they refused.  In due course, he directed the two men to leave; they refused.  He called the police.  Police directed the two men to leave; they refused, and they were arrested for trespassing.  Yaffe arrived while they were being taken away.

One customer took a phone video of the arrest, and another customer, Melissa DePino, posted it online.  DePino narrated, “The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing.”

There can be a question of whether the Starbucks policy was what it was, or should instead be what DePino thought it should be.

It got worse.  A few days later, a black man, Brandon Ward, posted video of an incident that occurred in Torrence, CA, on January 23, 2018.  He met a white man exiting the Starbucks bathroom who had been allowed to enter without having bought anything; whereas Brandon himself was denied.  This incident was unquestionably racist.[10], [11]

Nelson and Robinson sued Starbucks and the city of Philadelphia; the suit settled within a matter of days.[13]  The men accepted damages of $1 apiece.  The City agreed to fund a $200,000 program to train potential entrepreneurs.  Starbucks agreed to fund the men’s bachelor’s degrees at Arizona State University.  Starbucks would also close 8,000 stores, affecting 150,000 workers, for a half-day of DEI training on May 29.  And Starbucks instituted a new policy, that no one should be denied use of the bathrooms, whether they’d bought anything or not.

The manager of the Philadelphia store resigned.[11]

Megan Kelly weighs in

NBC’s Megyn Kelly expressed concern about Starbucks stores turning into places where homeless people can use the bathroom during a roundtable conversation about the company’s new policy to allow anyone to use the facilities, regardless of if they are a paying customer or not.

“They’re allowing anyone to stay and use the bathroom even if they don’t buy anything, which has a lot of Starbucks’ customers saying, really? Like, why?” Kelly said. She wondered if “Starbucks are now going to get overwhelmed with people and is it really just a public space or is it not?”

The conversation was prompted by Tuesday’s anti-bias training at Starbucks stores nationwide, a decision that followed an incident when a store manager called the police on two black men for “trespassing” when they sat in the cafe without buying a drink.

Kelly received pushback from Jenna Bush Hager, who said: “I think some of these people don’t have places to go. I’ve seen people sit in our local Starbucks here in New York City that are homeless, that don’t have another place.”

Kelly dismissed that Starbucks was the “solution,” noting that homeless people can go to “churches.” She added, “For the paying customers who go in with their kids, do you really want to deal with a mass of homeless people or whoever is in there — could be drug addicted, you don’t know — when you’re there with your kids, paying for the services of the place?”[12]

I do not personally know of any church that has the resources to provide a drop-in center for the homeless.

“Homeless” is a misnomer.

The articles I link to here below refer to the population in question variously as “addicted,” “addicts,” “mentally ill,” “homeless,” “unwell,” “unhoused,” and “riff raff.”  I would say that the term “homeless,” to refer to them, is actually a misnomer.

My term of choice herein may as well be “unwanted.”

For the moment, let me use, instead, “riff raff.”

Riff raff are not necessarily, by any means, homeless.  Nor are the mentally ill, nor criminals, nor addicts.  Nor are the homeless necessarily any of those things.[3]

There are folk who are shabbily dressed, and have poor grooming and hygiene, and possibly strange mannerisms; who may or may not know how to behave; who may be mentally ill, or differently abled, or criminals, or addicts, or homeless — any or all of those things, or any combination, or none.

The unwanted typically display arrested development.[2]  Causes of arrested development include, but are not limited to, addiction, mental illness, and childhood poverty.[4]

In every Starbucks, there is a sign listing their behavioral expectations for visitors, such as a prohibition against belligerence.  But unwanted people may display behaviors that, without explicitly violating those rules, may alarm the principal client base:  rocking back and forth in one’s seat, for example, or talking to oneself ad infinitum.  Again, those who do those things may or may not be mentally ill, addicted or homeless.

Some of the unwanted are unwanted by me.[17]

These “homeless” aren’t those “homeless.”

At one time, for several years, I was spending my days at my church.  The Burger King at the southwest corner of Orleans Street and Central Avenue was on the way there from the shelter, so I began spending several hours there every morning.  In those hours, that restaurant was normally full of homeless men from the two nearby men’s shelters, Helping Up Mission and the Baltimore Rescue Mission.  There might be thirty of us in there, for four hours.  There was never a problem.

Earlier, for several years, I had spent several hours every morning at McDonald’s #2763, at the southeast corner of Baltimore and Light Streets.  I was basically spending my days, at that time, in the computer lab at Enoch Pratt Free Library; this McDonald’s was halfway between there and the shelter.  I would arrive at opening, 5:00 a.m., and stay until about 9:30; the library opened at 10.  During those hours, the restaurant was normally full of unwanted people.  The turmoil was constant.[1]

Neither the Burger King nor the McDonald’s had any outlets.

I did run into problems at that Burger King at other times, most notably Sunday afternoons when I would go there to relax after church.  The perpetrators weren’t homeless.[7][16]

Beginning perhaps in 2018, I began spending considerable time at the Starbucks that was then at the southwest corner of Baltimore and Light Streets, across the street from the McDonald’s I mentioned.  At this time, I was still in the condition of having to carry all my belongings with me wherever I went.  I remarked many times, in my diary or on FaceBook, that people had come in the store in whose presence I did not feel my belongings were safe.  I attributed this to the location:  Somehow, for decades, the unit block of Light Street, from Baltimore Street south to Lombard, has been a magnet for lots and lots of intensely unwanted people.  It’s right smack in the middle of downtown, and nowhere else nearby is like it.

From a recent podcast: [20]

I posted on FaceBook, on July second, 2019, quote:

We’re scary.

Among other renovations they made at Starbucks today, they removed all the outlets.
So I have nowhere to plug in my tablet.

The only reason I can think of they did this, is to upgrade the clientele.

I’ve never seen a problem with anyone who’s been there charging their phone,
but I concede that some of them might be frightening to the necktie crowd.

It’s not me.
They LIKE me.

But Tyrone Morris getting the cops called on him the other day probably didn’t help.

End quote.  I don’t recall what Tyrone Morris did to get the police called, but I remember something about the cops’ conversation with him.  I was out front smoking during part of that.  The one cop turned and walked back to his cruiser, and brought back a folder that had Morris’s ID in it.  I am clueless what circumstances would warrant a police officer taking and keeping a person’s ID; but it’s clear that Mr. Morris had had contact with that officer before.

The “woke” or PC aspect

Wokeness always comes with a price that woke folk are unwilling to pay.

Starbucks was launched as the upscale, classy café where one could get artisan coffees and exotic blends.  It was to appeal to the young urban professionals who, decades prior, were called “Yuppies.”  Over the years, the business officially staked out various progressive political or cultural stands, such as are prone to appeal to that clientele.

For example, in July 2022, when I was frequenting the Starbucks at 100 E. Pratt St., there were four (4) Pride flags displayed inside the store, and almost every barista wore a Pride pin, along with another pin announcing the barista’s pronouns.  When I visited that store again in October ’22, somehow the Pride flags were gone.

One of the articles linked to below[18] spells out several of Starbucks’ “woke” gestures.  Some got reactions from reactionaries, even when no “woke” gesture had occurred.  In 2015, Starbucks was accused of being engaged in a “War on Christmas,” as its seasonal cups that winter lacked images of snowflakes.

I don’t know what snowflakes have to do with Jesus.

It seems to me the bottom line for any business must be to offer the best goods and services possible at the lowest prices possible.  Engaging the culture wars is no part of that; will only drive away part of the possible customer base; and will further inflame already painful divisions in society.

Jesus wants the unwanted.  Starbucks isn’t Jesus.


[1] — No date — Tag:  McDonald’s #2763 | The Homeless Blogger

Exemplary posts:

[2] — No date — Tag:  Arrested development | The Homeless Blogger

[3] — 2013-10-08 — Who are the homeless? | The Homeless Blogger

[4] — 2014-08-06 — Chaos overwhelms the poor | The Homeless Blogger

[5] — 2015-07-08 — Did you buy that latte 2 hours ago? Think about leaving the coffee shop.

[6] — 2015-07-20 — “Don’t believe her defenders. Amy Schumer’s jokes are racist.”

[7] — 2016-10-19 — The Pharisee and the Tax Collector | The Homeless Blogger — About the $8.

[8] — 2018-04-14 — Black men’s arrests at Philadelphia Starbucks prompt city probes amid national outcry ( (Paywall)

[9] — 2018-04-16 — Philadelphia Starbucks’ embattled manager decides to leave company, report says | Fox News

[10] — 2018-04-16 — ‘Is It My Skin Color?’ Black Man Asks in Viral Video After Apparently Being Denied Restroom Access at Torrance Starbucks | KTLA

[11] — 2018-04-18 — Starbucks in L.A. accused of racism after bathroom incident caught on video | CBS News

[12] — 2018-05-02 — Starbucks reaches settlement in racial bias scandal

[13] — 2018-05-02 — Two black men arrested at Starbucks settle with Philadelphia for $2

[14] — 2018-05-11 — Starbucks Bathrooms Open to All After Controversial Arrest | Time

[15] — 2018-05-29 — Megyn Kelly is upset homeless people might use the bathrooms at Starbucks now (

[16] — 2019-06-01 — Psychopaths’ favorite music | The Homeless Blogger — About the guy acting “disreputably.”

[17] — 2020-06-02 — Podcast – I don’t want to live among these people. | The Homeless Blogger

[18] — 2021-02-11 — The Biggest Scandals To Ever Hit Starbucks (

[19] — 2022-06-10 — Starbucks may close its bathrooms to the public again

[20] — 2022-09-06 — Podcast — Contrasts and justice (Part 2)

[21] — 2022-10-11 —The Controversial Reason A TikTok Went Viral For Calling Out Starbucks (

Later developments

12/10/22 — Police arrest Starbucks knife assault suspect in California | The Sacramento Bee (

12/14/22 — Engaging the culture wars is bad for business — ANY  business.  Apparently, Elon Musk bought Twitter for the sake of realizing his dreams as a right-wing troll.  He recently tweeted, “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci.”  Meanwhile, Twitter is in financial chaos, and shares of his principal venture, Tesla, have tanked:

12/25/22 —  This Is The Real Reason Rose McGowan Was Canceled Not By Hollywood, But By Fans (  Compare Tom Hanks:  Politicization will ruin your brand, no matter what brand it is.

02/12/23 — ‘Woke’ companies risk inciting ‘hostile’ public, research finds (

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