Homeless Lives Matter: Montgomery Man Demonstrates “Reverse Panhandling”
One man is using his lunch break to educate those on the difference between a homeless person and professional panhandler.
You may have seen Patrick Aitken on the corner of Ann Street beside the interstate wearing a t-shirt and hat that reads “Homeless Lives Matter” and passing out ice cold bottles of water.
“I tell you within the first hour people tried to donate more than what I make in an hour,” said Aitken.
Instead of taking money, Aitken is working to be a voice for the homeless and give information to those willing to stop and listen.
“Not all homeless panhandle. Not all panhandlers are homeless. There is a difference. Some people that I work with particularly through our church are true homeless individuals that are trying to get jobs, trying to get their own housing and things like that,” Aitken explained.
Earlier in July, Montgomery City Council unanimously approved an Ordinance to strengthen enforcement against panhandlers. First offenses would be met with a fine and two days in jail, unless suspended by a judge.
“Locking someone up is not the answer,” said Aitken. “When someone drives up to this exit, they have the choice to hand out some change to someone that is panhandling. They can either do it or don’t do it.”
Shortly after news broke of the new law, a statement from Mayor Todd Strange’s office was released saying Mayor Strange had been out of the country. “Accordingly, he will neither veto nor sign the ordinance but will administratively delay its implementation at least 60 days to hear and understand the concerns that have been raised and to work with the city agencies to ensure a legal and fair implementation of whatever is ultimately decided. He understands people’s rights, but is also concerned about the safety and harassing nature of panhandling while at the same time being very sensitive to homeless issues.”
Aitken is also an advocate for Housing not Handcuffs. It is all a apart of a nationwide campaign fighting to give all homeless people access to affordable housing and other opportunities.
“Work the math and tell me how they can find an apartment, pay the $600 security deposit, the $600 first month’s rent, $350 to get Alabama Power turned on. There’s just no way someone can afford to move into an apartment and get on their feet,” said Aitken.
Aitken says if you would like to donate or volunteer to help the homeless population you can do so by contacting your local 211 office. CLICK HERE for more information.
“I always tell people when you are walking down the street, it doesn’t cost you anything to look a homeless person in the eye and not ignore them and say ‘Hey how you doing buddy? You having a good day?’ It’s just nice to acknowledge the invisible population that Montgomery has,” said Aitken.