Kenneth Cofer had been on the job about half an hour Thursday morning and had earned just $1.46.
"It's the first time I've ever been out here," Cofer said while standing at the end of the southbound Interstate 15 offramp to Lake Mead Boulevard, clad in a St. Vincent shelter T-shirt and holding a sign that read: Vietnam vet need a little help thank you.
"I just want about $5 to buy a pack of cigarettes."
Several miles away, at the southbound U.S. Highway 95 offramp to Charleston Boulevard, a rail-thin, shaggy-haired Herbert Goodland, who lives in a nearby homeless encampment, said he does OK panhandling now and then.
"On a good day, I can make $15 or $20 in an hour," he said.
It's difficult to come up with an accurate estimate of how much on average these and other roadside entrepreneurs make.
But a survey of 107 local panhandlers conducted earlier this year found the monthly median income from panhandling was $192. The results were released Thursday by Applied Survey Research, a California-based nonprofit social research firm that also conducted two recent homeless counts in Clark County.
The firm put together the 2007 "Southern Nevada Panhandling Study" for the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition's Committee on Homelessness.
In addition to surveying panhandlers, the firm conducted a random telephone survey of 1,000 Clark County residents to find out how much people were giving to panhandlers.
Turns out that $1 or $2 every now and then can really add up.
According to the survey, about 42 percent of locals donated to panhandlers in the past year. The median annual donation was $14. Collectively, they gave about $8.4 million to panhandlers during that time.
That's more than enough to fund Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada's entire homeless services program for the next two years.
The total amount of money people give to local panhandlers each year may in fact be higher, because the survey doesn't measure how much money is handed out by visitors to the valley, said Applied Survey Research Vice President Peter Connery.
Some social service providers have long suggested that the public's money might be better spent on organizations that provide long-term help instead of handouts on the street.
"Wouldn't it be better to push that money toward a homeless trust fund?" asked Shannon West, regional homeless coordinator for the homeless committee.
The committee has set up such a fund to support outreach work, crisis services and other needs of the homeless population.
West plans to use the results of the study in a public education campaign to persuade people to redirect their donations to established organizations.
When survey respondents were asked whether they would be willing to participate in a program whose aim was to redirect donations from panhandlers to organizations, 58 percent of those who donated money to panhandlers said they would.
Of those who didn't give to panhandlers, 63 percent said they would participate. But 62 percent of those who gave to panhandlers said such a program wouldn't affect their habit of donating directly to panhandlers.
The panhandling study was part of a $325,000 contract with Applied Survey Research that included winter and summertime homeless censuses.
The winter count, conducted in January, estimated that 11,369 people are homeless in Clark County on any given day.
Results for the summertime count, conducted in July, also were released Thursday. That count found that in the summer about 11,681 homeless people live in Clark County, a difference Connery said was "not statistically significant."
In a separate, February survey of 1,378 homeless people, about 19 percent said they panhandle.
It's a myth that panhandlers do pretty well for themselves, Connery said.
"The people who panhandle are homeless, are poor, have issues and they need help," he said.
Eighty-one percent of the 107 panhandlers surveyed separately said they were homeless, and 70 percent said they had a disabling condition.
Goodland, 45, said he is disabled and hasn't been able to find a job that pays enough to put a roof over his head.
Goodland said if people stopped giving him handouts near the freeway, he still wouldn't spend much time in a homeless shelter.
"You can only stay in them a certain amount of time," he said. "It's seven days here, three days there. I'd still be back on the street. I want a place to live, but I want to do it on my own."
The New Jersey native said he has been homeless in Las Vegas for years and takes turns panhandling at the offramp with several other men, working an hour or two at a time.
The most anyone has ever handed him is $20, he said.
Cofer, 54, said he was new to panhandling, having been in town from Florida just 20 days and kicked out of a local shelter program for staying out too late a few days back.
He came to town after hearing Las Vegas "is like paradise," he said, but can't work because of several health problems, including diabetes.
Cofer recently applied for Social Security benefits, but in the meantime decided to try his luck at a freeway offramp.
"Some friends told me I could make $75 to $80 a day."
Cofer, who said he served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, didn't seem on course to raise nearly that much.
"It's OK," he said, rubbing his ample belly. "I won't go hungry."