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Raleigh city leaders looking for places groups can feed homeless

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City leaders in Raleigh are still looking for different areas where outreach groups can feed the homeless without breaking the law. City leaders in Raleigh are still looking for different areas where outreach groups can feed the homeless without breaking the law.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

City leaders in Raleigh are still looking for different areas where outreach groups can feed the homeless without breaking the law.

A controversial city ordinance bans anyone from distributing food at Moore Square Park, or any city owned property, without a permit. It's been a hot topic ever since a couple of groups were told by police at Moore Square not to distribute food or they would be arrested.

At a City Council meeting on Tuesday, the Law and Public Safety Committee made its recommendations to the council.

Council voted in favor of the recommendations, agreeing not to enforce the ordinance until they can come up with a better long-term solution.

They also agreed that they will continue to inform the public that the ordinance is on the books, and for now, that ordinance will not change.

"At the end of the day while we're bickering over Moore Square and ordinances, there are hundreds of people who are depending on someone to bring them some food. Those are the people who get punished in the short-term if we just take a systems-based approach," said Hugh Hollowell, director of Love Wins Ministries.

He said his group is very excited they can continue to provide meals for those in need, but said there is still work to be done. He said the city needs to focus on applying more resources to helping the homeless, and not just moving them around the city.

"Homelessness in Raleigh is not a Moore Square problem, homelessness in Raleigh is a city problem. There does need to be a city approach, but that is not to minimize the impact of homelessness in our downtown core," Hollowell said.

He said Love Wins Ministries is a "downtown ministry" and he hopes to keep it that way as long as there is a need.

"In my dream, I'm out of business," said Hollowell, "I'm sleeping in on Saturday morning, my wife and I can go to Starbuck's and read the New York Times, because hungry people are being fed and they're not out there waiting on me to bring them their breakfast. I'm fully aware every time I feed someone it represents failure on us as citizens of Raleigh to take care of vulnerable people."

The city is encouraging groups to come forward with suggestions.

The city committee's recommendations were as follows:

The committee recommends not enforcing the rules and regulations relating to feeding the homeless in Moore Square until administration develops a possible solution to the issues for consideration at the Nov. 26, 2013, Law and Public Safety Committee meeting. It is understood the stay of enforcement only relates to feeding the homeless at Moore Square.

  • In the interim, do not change policy regarding Moore Square
  • No enforcement/arrests for any food distribution activity - same as current policy
  • Continue to educate food providers about restrictions in the park and sidewalks
  • Once alternative sites are identified. offer alternatives to groups who arrive to serve food
  • Ask food distribution operations to move only when a permitted activity is to be held in the park
  • In the interim, look for alternative sites to allow groups to provide food
  • Concentrate on sites near where those in need already congregate
  • Explore Wake County facilities that are already set up for services to the needy
  • Explore sites at churches/organizations that have facilities that can accommodate outside groups safely
  • Work with our existing partners to identify alternative sites
  • Re-engage the Community Oriented Government (COG) team
  • Widen the circle to include other agencies including Wake County
  • Reach out to all community groups and faith-based organizations to participate
  • Ask the team to develop specific action steps related to the priorities they have already developed

The city also said if a permitted event is going on in the park, the outreach groups will be asked to move out.

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Jonathan Rodriguez

Jonathan Rodriguez is an investigative reporter and member of the WNCN Investigates team. His storytelling specialty is connecting the dots to get to the truth, with a goal of delivering results for our community. If you have something you’d like WNCN to investigate, contact Jonathan.

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