Charitable groups will again be allowed to feed the homeless in Moore Square without a permit, but only temporarily.
City Councilors Tuesday upheld the earlier recommendations of the Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee and issued a stay of enforcement until city administration develops a solution.
Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin, chair of the Law and Public Safety Committee, said, “Turn a blind eye is what we are doing until we can come up with solutions.”
A recent blog post by Love Wins Ministries, “Feeding the Homeless Apparently Illegal in Raleigh, N.C.,” spread on social media and sparked a huge public outcry. The group has been feeding the homeless in Moore Square park downtown for years, but was recently threatened with arrest if they continued to distribute food.
City ordinance 9-2022(b), put in place in 1999, prohibits the distribution of food in city parks without an $800 permit.
While the stay of enforcement is in place, city officials plan to look for alternative sites where those in need already congregate to allow groups to provide food.
Councilor Thomas Crowder discussed the need for community engagement in coming up with these alternative sites.
“As we look at alternative sites, I just think we have a broad public conversations when that takes place,” Crowder said, “because we just want to make sure the broader community is engaged during that process.”
One possible alternative site suggested by Councilor John Odom is the South Wilmington Street Center. The center provides housing and serves meals to the homeless during the week. On the weekend it only provides housing. Wake County has offered it to organizations to use on the weekends to help feed the homeless.
Councilor Russ Stephenson said he was impressed with the outpouring of concern from people about helping the homeless.
“There was so much love that I felt from people who really care about their fellow citizens, and it was a really great feeling,” he said. “I know that with that much goodwill that we’ll be able to work together to find solutions that are even better than the ones we’ve got today.”
Odom echoed the sentiment.
“I think we are going to have a great opportunity to make our feeding of those who are in need even better than it was before,” he said.
Possible solutions will be discussed at the Nov. 26 meeting of the Law and Public Safety Committee.