Raleigh City Council to allow food distribution for now

Raleigh police talking with volunteers with Love Wins Ministries (Image courtesy Love Wins Ministries)
September 3, 2013 2:02:29 PM PDT
Raleigh City Council agreed Tuesday to let groups who want to hand out food to the homeless in downtown Raleigh to do so without fear of arrest. However, it's only a temporary fix.

Council members say they will look for a long term solution on where Raleigh's homeless can get food without impacting surrounding businesses.

"Some of the clients, they do not like to come to this location because of some harassment from the homeless," said Rashid Salaha, who runs a Subway restaurant next to Moore Square. "The minute they try to walk in to the door to buy a sandwich, homeless walk up and say 'Hey can you give me some change. Can you buy me a sandwich,' and that turns our business client away."

Moore square has become a hangout for the homeless, especially on weekend.

A couple weeks ago, police officers forced a local group to leave when it tried to feed homeless there without a permit. Officers say they were just enforcing city rules.  

Groups scrambled to find new places to distribute food.

"All of a sudden people don't know whether we're going to show up or not, and they count on it," said Mary Stanton of Brown Bag. "So the fact that it's an unknown is a big deal because the people need the food."

"I feel as a citizen it's one of my rights for them to serve and me to receive what they give," said Keaisa Golden, who comes to the food distribution.

The city council voted to allow groups to continue to distribute food in Moore Square and they won't have to pay for a permit for now. Council will look for new places for groups to hand out food.

"People need to work together," said Stanton. "These people are in need and we need to be able to figure out a compromise to satisfy both what the city needs and what these people need."

It's a delicate balance to help people, and businesses.

"If it were to pass away, it would make me feel like I'm not important enough to receive something simple like this," said Golden.

"We have the right to run our business in peace and our client has the right to come in here," said Salahat.

The Law and Public Safety Committee says it will give the full council proposals for a more permanent, long term solution at its Nov. 26 meeting.

Click here for more information about the committee's solutions.

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