Homeless veteran from viral makeover video arrested, jailed

Published November 21, 2013 8:18 am

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The homeless man whose transformation captivated the Internet earlier this month has fallen back on hard times.

James Allen Wolf was arrested Nov. 17 for trespassing and creating a disturbance at a Burger King in Grand Rapids, Mich., MLive reports. Wolf pleaded guilty to both charges a day later — the justice system evidently moves more swiftly in Michigan — and was sentenced to 10 days in jail for each crime.

Wolf drew worldwide attention when he appeared in a YouTube video called "Homeless Veteran Timelapse Transformation." At the beginning of the video, Wolf looked haggard and dirty but by end was transformed into someone who could've passed for a CEO or model. It was an inspiring video that had more than 15.3 million views early Thursday morning.

Significantly, the video concluded by saying that the makeover helped Wolf take control of his life and deal with his decades of alcoholism.

In light of his arrest, it seems the filmmakers may have overstated their case. And as a shelter director in Grand Rapids told MLive, "addiction and homelessness is a complex condition. It's not solved as simply as the video might indicate."

Which I think is why it never showed up on the Meanwhile blog. It was inspiring, yes, and there's nothing wrong with trying to help a guy out. But didn't it also seem reductive? And perhaps self-aggrandizing on the part of the filmmakers?

In light of these new developments — not to mention Christopher Smart's story from yesterday on how to effectively help those living on the street — it's worth remembering that the challenges relating to homelessness are not easily solved nor do they always lend themselves to simplistic, happy endings. Hopefully this viral video episode helps remind us to prioritize effective longterm strategies — whatever they may be — over fleeting warm fuzzies.

— Jim Dalrymple II

Twitter: @jimmycdii

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