Basically, a homeless person with magical powers, or some connection to the Supernatural. This is for two reasons:
1) They're Beneath Suspicion
, so their powers often take other characters, and in some cases the audience, completely by surprise.
2) Making them homeless either fits in with a theme of magic being opposed to materialism, or makes you Go Mad from the Revelation
(as homeless people, both in real life and in fiction, frequently suffer from mental illnesses).
It should be noted that it's usually made clear that not ALL homeless people are supernatural, just some.
Related to Blue-Collar Warlock
Anime and Manga
Film — Live Action
- Kyutaro "God" Kamigama of 20th Century Boys is a wise man with psychic abilities and a tendency to speak in bowling metaphors. He is revered by his fellow homeless and even the main characters who meet him acknowledge his intellect.
- In a science-fictional variant, Twelve Monkeys suggests that at least a few seemingly insane homeless people are actually traumatized, displaced time-travelers from Cole's future. (this one is disputed, please discuss)
- In the film Brother From Another Planet the eponymous brother is an escaped slave who lands on earth; his only physical departure from human normal is his feet. He can fix anything mechanical by touching it.
- Prince of Darkness sort of falls into this category. The homeless are controlled by the devil, indicating they're at least more susceptible to the supernatural.
Live Action Television
- Clive Barker's story The Inhuman Condition includes one in the form of Mr. Pope. Although his exact nature is never clarified, he at minimum has a knotted string sealing away monsters, and a book of spells.
- In the Matthew Swift series of novels, anyone in the know about magic can call on anthropomorphic personifications like The Beggar King for magical assistance by invoking him while going through the daily motions of being homeless - panhandling, sleeping rough, etc. The main character does this once early in the first novel when he is technically homeless (using stolen money to stay in hotel rooms) but it is not clear how common this practice is or how many rough sleepers are aware of their patron deities despite the paper thin Masquerade.
- Wizard in Wizard of the Pigeons by Megan Lindholm (aka Robin Hobb), who to keep his magic must never have more than a dollar in his pocket, must remain celibate, and he must feed and protect the pigeons.
- The Gypsy in the novel The Gypsy by Steven Brust and Megan Lindholm (aka Robin Hobb).
- Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere has an entire population of these. Once you've entered into their world, mundane humans tend to either ignore you, or not recognize you. The actual level of magical powers they have varies a great deal.
- Tales Of The Drunken Paladin has save points in the form of a Magical Hobo (who call themselves exactly that.) They are exceptionally snarky and rude to Anebriate (who isn't exactly a saint himself), and eventually one of them gets thrown into Magical Hobo prison for abandoning his contractually-bound job as a save point because Anebriate pushed his limit to the point of him storming off.
- In Condemned 2: Bloodshot, protagonist Ethan Thomas has become so shaken from the events of the first game that he becomes a homeless alcoholic. He is nonetheless picked up by the SCU to help with their current case, and in the course of the investigation, he discovers he has the ability to destroy things with his voice.
- The concept is Played for Laughs in this Critical Miss strip, in which Erin points out to Ryu from Street Fighter that he has no job or education, and just spends his time "throwing fireballs at people."
- The Polar Express includes a hobo character who seems to fall into this category, although his exact nature is not defined.