Live-Streaming Your Broke Self for Rent Money

Jovan Hill, 25, dropped out of school and is unemployed. So how does he pay for his Brooklyn residence and marijuana behavior? His social media followers chip in.

On a lazy Sunday in September, Jovan Hill, a 25-year-old unemployed man in Brooklyn, had a small ask for the 7,100 strangers watching him on the live-streaming app Periscope: He wanted $7,000, shortly.

“Good morning, girls and gays,” Mr. Hill stated, recording with an iPhone in a single hand and smoking a marijuana blunt within the different. He wore a light pink T-shirt, grey fitness center shorts and black Nikes. A black Pomeranian and two roommates might be noticed in his messy bed room someplace within the neighborhood of Carroll Gardens.

In the rambling seven-minute video, he talks about wanting to maneuver to Los Angeles (“This city just breaks you, I’m so bored of being broken”), spars with viewers who go away nasty feedback (“I love all of you so much”), smokes his blunt and repeatedly asks for cash.

“I’m very poor today,” he stated. “So if you want any tax write-offs, please donate to the Jovan charity.”

Within minutes, the donations began flowing into his Venmo and PayPal accounts.

Annie Wyrick, 25, a D.J. in Los Angeles, gave $100 together with a cryptic message: “Spiraling.” Rachel McFall, 22, a waitress in New Orleans, donated $10. Lindsay Scali, 21, an freelance filmmaker from Fort Myers, Fla., gave $1 with a observe calling Mr. Hill the “unemployed king.”

“That was the first time I realized my followers care about my well-being,” he said.

Mr. Hill’s Tumblr following grew while he was studying at Texas State University, but he did not lean on them financially until this year, when he had a “manic episode” in January over a bad breakup and dropped out of college a few credits shy of graduating.

With $22 in his pocket and a plane ticket his mother bought him, he came to New York City to start over. He moved into a basement apartment in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn with Jake Garner, another live-streaming influencer, who he met through Tumblr.

Mr. Garner had their first month’s rent covered, but neither had regular income, so they began asking their followers for help.

“We basically came to an agreement where it was like, if you want me to be sitting in my room and going live every day, you need to pay my rent,” Mr. Hill said. “At first that was like $300 to live in a basement, but then they wanted me to have a better life.”

Mr. Hill got a job at a concession stand at a Chelsea movie theater but quit after a few weeks, never bothering to pick up his last paychecks. “I was making less money at the movie theater than sitting in my room live-streaming five times a day,” he said. “So why go to work?”

While Ice Poseidon hassome 730,00 YouTube subscribers, many live-streamers have a few thousand at most.

At least once, he asks for money. “I’ll do anything for $15,” he said in a recent video from Los Angeles, where he was streaming from an Airbnb. A few minutes in, a follower named Ashley requested “attention” for her $5 Venmo donation. “I love you, Ashley,” he said in a singsong voice.

He talks in bursts of inspiration, then mumbles through lulls, and frequently changes topics. Mr. Hill says he was diagnosed as manic depressive and does not take any medication for it, which may explain the mood swings.

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