Behind The Business Of Panhandling

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By Catalina Trivino

From Montgomery -- you can often see panhandlers all along Ann street asking you for money or food when you drive by.

Do these people have legitimate needs? And is the city trying to stop them from begging you for help?

Reporter, Catalina Trivino, spent all day on Ann Street, where she ran into several panhandlers. 30 seconds -- that's about how long they have, as you're sitting at the light, to convince you to make a decision: Do you give, or do you drive away as you look at entire stories summed up on a broken piece of cardboard?

But even further -- are the panhandlers you see legitimate? Or is this just a full-time job?

Meet Kate O'Brien and Robbie Mast. We found them on the Ann Street interstate ramp. Mast was clutching a cardboard sign that read, "Traveling through, need supplies. Anything helps!" O'Brien played music hoping the entertainment could attract money or even food.

"We barely go a day without eating. I mean, people help us out with food, there's so much food thrown away like you can [go to the] dumpster," Said O'Brien.

They also got cash, after cash.

The couple wouldn't tell us how much money they make, but they told us they often slept outside. They don't have a job -- yet, they enjoy traveling.

But panhandling in Alabama is illegal -- Edward Moye says he was aware of that, yet he knocked on our window asking for money.

He told us he was homeless and wanted a job, but he says he makes about $2 for every hour he stands outside.

"I've been in jail for panhandling, loitering, stuff like that," Said Moye.

He says he got out a month ago for panhandling.

"Are you still having to make a living out of panhandling?" Asked reporter, Catalina Trivino. "Yeah, uh-huh. Tight now that's all I can do," Said Moye.

So is panhandling a problem in Montgomery?

"That in itself is a problem and it's not something you want to see in your city. And you want to help them any way possible," Said councilman, Arch Lee.

But Moye says he hasn't been so lucky hopping between shelters.

"You go to these shelters and then they dont feed you enough, but it don't be enough to make it though the night," Said Moye. It's a reason why he's back to old habits.

Councilman Lee says it's best to call 3-1-1 in those times of need.

"Whether it's soup kitchens or halfway homes or places where they could stay," Said Lee.

While some say it's a life of choice -- for traveling -- and others say it's a life they've been thrown into... it's still a life with many questions and few answers: people using cardboard, a marker and an idea to sell a story.
 

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