Raleigh council gets earful about feeding homeless


About 250 people packed a City Hall meeting room Wednesday for a meeting of the council's Law and Public Safety Committee.

Dozens took turns speaking out against an incident last weekend where city police officers threatened with arrest members of a Christian ministry that has for years provided breakfast to those in Moore Square park with nothing to eat. Many urged the city to spend more to help the homeless.

Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown said that her officers were simply attempting to enforce ordinances that have been on the books for years requiring a permit to distribute food on city property.

When volunteers from Love Wins Ministries showed up at Moore Square Saturday morning, they said they were greeted with officers from the Raleigh Police Department. The group wrote on their blog, that the officers told them if they distributed any food to the nearly 70 people waiting, they would be arrested.

The 100 sausage biscuits and gallons of coffee went uneaten because of the fear of arrests. Due to a city ordinance, the distribution of food in any of the city's parks is prohibited. However, volunteer say that ordinance has not been enforced until now.

» Click here to read the city ordinance «

No arrests were made Saturday in connection with the feeding activity.

On Sunday, several groups rallied at Moore Square in support of the group.

Raleigh mayor Nancy McFarlane was on hand at the rally and talked with Love Ministries' Rev. Hugh Hollowell.

"I can't tell you why it kind of came up just now, I think it's really been recognized that its growing and growing, there's more need," said McFarlane in an interview with ABC11 Sunday. "I'm sorry for the confrontation or whatever happened yesterday, but I think the outcome is going to be good."

She also said the issue would be addressed during the Raleigh City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee meeting at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

The food flap made national headlines Monday and highlighted decades-old tensions between downtown's homeless population and the workers, residents and visitors driving the area's revitalization.

In the meantime, Love Ministries has asked for help from the public in finding a private building or parking lot downtown that they can use to feed the hungry. Hollowell said that if the group were to get a permit to distribute the food it would cost $800 each day.

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