posted by Zach Patton

Remember a couple months ago when those members of Congress took the "Food Stamp Challenge," trying to eat on only $21 a week? Even Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and his wife joined in.

Now, the four mayoral candidates in Nashville have each accepted a challenge to be homeless for a night.

One man tried in vain to sleep on a park bench. Two others swallowed their pride as they went into restaurants, broke but hungry. With no bathroom available, another one used the woods....

The National Coalition for the Homeless has been organizing similar experiences for college students and others for the past 25 years. But the group's executive director, Michael Stoops, said it was the first time political candidates agreed to take part.

Maybe I'm too cynical, but all these mile-in-someone-else's-shoes stunts seem really cheap to me -- maybe even offensive.

Like, it's great that you want some perspective on poverty and everything. But playing homeless for one night or pretending to shop on food stamps while you hold up a box of Hamburger Helper and mug for the press just strikes me as gross. Especially when, at the end of whatever predetermined period of time, you go back to your regular menu or your comfy bed. It all just seems so pedantic, so phony.

I mean, wouldn't the poor be better served by your coming up with an anti-poverty plan of some sort, rather than spending a night on a park bench?