Advocates for the homeless want to continue to use Moore Square park as a place where Raleigh’s poor can find a meal, some shelter and a helpful hand.
This was one of the major takeaways from Monday’s public meeting between city staff and charitable organizations that looked into where and how groups would continue to provide food for the homeless.
The meeting came after intense public outcry when charitable groups were told in late August to stop distributing food in the park or face arrest. A national media firestorm erupted and an emergency Law and Public Safety committee meeting was held to discuss the next steps.
Councilors agreed to allow groups to continue distributing food in the park without having to pay the permit fee until something more permanent is decided.
About 100 people, including city staff, attending Monday’s meeting of the new City’s Food Distribution Task force, which organized attendees into smaller groups and asked them to focus on four main questions.
1. Identify current food distribution locations you serve on the weekends, weekdays or both. Please provide if it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Please be as specific as possible with address locations for mapping purposes.
2. List your priority of where you would like to distribute food. Please list your organization if this is a location that can be used for food distribution as a possibility.
3. Criteria for feeding locations – what do you need to distribute food safely, humanely and compassionately. For example, bus line, sinks for hand washing, etc.
4. What does success look like to you in six months?
The purpose, said Casa’s Debra King, is to find out what is already being done and what groups need going forward.
“What does the picture we currently have really and truly look like?” she said.
After about 45 minutes of working in groups, group leaders reported their results, which seemed similar across the board.
Among other things, advocates wanted a permanent location with a climate-controlled shelter that would provide food, bathrooms and social resources. They wanted this location to be near a transit center and ideally in Moore Square.
“I don’t want you to leave this meeting thinking we did not hear you,” said Octavia Rainey, a community activist and group facilitator.
King also encouraged attendees to join the task force that will take the results from Monday’s meeting and use them to work toward a more permanent solution. The task force will meet three more times before presenting its findings to the Law and Public Safety Committee Nov. 26.