Offering Hope, Compassion and Promise: Patrick Hagler’s Five Years With Atlanta’s Homeless Teens
Patrick Hagler, Esq., Alliant National State Counsel-Georgia, walks the streets of Atlanta handing out blankets, hygiene kits, and gloves to any and all homeless teenagers he comes across. Doing so has been his mission and passion for over five years.
Not only does he not ever see himself stopping this philanthropic effort, he has 2020 plans to start his own non-profit 501(c)(3) in order to broaden the scope of recipients to include everyone–women, children, and men of all ages. “I started volunteering with the group Lost and Found Youth in Atlanta five years ago,” he says. “The organization provides counseling and services to homeless youth and young adults in the Atlanta area and surrounding region. I also work their 24-hour hotline. Kids need a place to go, to find a meal, and this is an effort that helps them do that.”
Patrick do it?
Patrick does it because he cannot help himself. “Doing street outreach with Lost and Found Youth and seeing all the people living on the streets affected me deeply and broke my heart,” he says. “You see these people, human beings, with sullen faces and desperate eyes just looking for some compassion. When it is cold in the winter and brutally hot in the summers, giving my time and spreading some love, human touch, compassion and hope is the least we can offer.”
Some might wonder if Patrick ever felt threatened or if he ever found himself in a dangerous situation. In the five years Patrick’s been working the streets, he’s never been afraid. “Most people I have encountered welcome the support and only take what they need,” he says. “I have gone into places with some reservation, sure. But showing people you are there to help and just providing some compassion, well, any fears subside. They are living human beings that are down on their luck.”
What began as a simple helping effort, has morphed into Patrick soliciting donations from friends and family. Those efforts now make his second bedroom a sort of ad hoc stock room. The outpouring of support from the Facebook page he currently keeps up, has been one of his biggest surprises (Loving Hands of Hope @Haglers
“I began collecting money and then collecting hygiene kits,” he says. “We began hitting the streets, looking for kids in different locations where they typically stay.
“What I found so often, especially when it’s cold,” he adds, “is that the men typically defer to the women and children so they get into shelters first. Literally everyone is out there.
“Today I have a spare room and two cars full of stuff,” he says. “And after reaching out to friends on Facebook, their friends now donate. Alliant National is also donating 150 hygiene kits. It all began as a way to give back and it’s slowly grown.”
Patrick hopes his planned, 2020 new organization will continue to assist not only the youth and young adults that Lost and Found Youth of Atlanta serves, but to all people who never thought they would be on the streets. “One of the things I have found it that not all the people that are homeless want to be there,” he says. “They are not all deadbeats and drug addicts just living on the streets because that’s what they planned for their life. “We are all just one job loss or one bad decision from being there ourselves,” says Patrick. “There is no demographic for the homeless. They are simply trying to survive.”