Now, thanks to an Internet marketing campaign and unlikely allies, Edwards has become the human face of homelessness to thousands of online viewers drawn to his Web site by its deliberately controversial name — Pimp This Bum.
During regular Webcasts, dozens of visitors to http://www.pimpthisbum.com/ ask questions about Edwards' life and his slow fall from office manager with a home, a car, and a future to an outcast short of hope and with little prospect of help. The Web site also is a venue where visitors can donate money, services and goods to help Edwards yank himself out of homelessness.
Some homeless advocates say it makes Edwards a victim of exploitation, but the organizers say that edgy tone is what makes the project succeed. "We wanted to insult people's sensitivities so that they would go to the site and see Tim, and people seem to have fallen in love with him. He's funny and doesn't blame the world for his situation," said Kevin Dolan, 55, a marketing specialist from the Houston suburb of Katy who started the Web site with his 24-year-old son, Sean.
"If the site had been called 'Help the Homeless,' many Web surfers might just have clicked on past," says Sean.
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