New proposal unveiled for homeless feeding controversy

Short-term plan for food distribution unveiled after non-profits said police threaten arrest for feeding homeless
November 27, 2013 5:01:15 AM PST
Handing out food for the homeless has been a hot button issue in downtown Raleigh.

On Tuesday afternoon, city leaders heard a new plan for food distribution from a task force formed after nonprofits said police threatened to arrest them for handing out food in Moore Square.

"We brought the community together and had an honest discussion...which needed to happen," said Raleigh City Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin, who heads up the public safety committee responsible for figuring out a solution.

"When this happened, my Twitter feed blew up, and it was like, we have a problem here," she added.

By city ordinance, groups serving meals to the homeless need a permit or somewhere to go.

Therefore, Baldwin's group created a task force to come up with an answer, and three months later, they come up with a resolution to the controversial issue.

"We didn't want to be too far from Moore Square because that's where people know to go," said task force member Mark Swallow.

Swallow is on the task force that recommended retrofitting a warehouse behind the old Salvation Army building, across the street from Moore Square, as a short-term solution.

In the meantime, the city of Raleigh and Wake County, together, will come up with a long-term solution.

"Some place that's a permanent building, that provides services. I think that needs to be part of the long term solution," said Swallow.

For now, most advocates support the warehouse as a short-term plan. It will be somewhere meals can be served on Saturday and Sundays with bathrooms and sinks for folks to wash up.

"The group wanted to make sure [they had] access to where they're used to...weather...facilities...I think there's a lot of good compromise there," said Swallow.

Officials say it will cost about $100,000 to bring the warehouse up to code, but say the building fits most of the needs identified by the task force.

"Right now, my biggest concern is how soon can we do it? It's getting cold out," said Baldwin.

It is unclear where the city will get the money, but there should be an answer when the proposal comes up for a vote by the full city council on December 3.


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