The mayor of Raleigh, N.C., is promising this morning to figure out how local charity groups can continue to feed homeless people in the city’s parks after police threatened to arrest members of a local church who were trying to do just that during the weekend.
Hugh Hollowell, founder of Love Wins Ministries, said his church group has been handing out “hot coffee and a breakfast sandwich to anyone who wants one” each weekend for the past six years in Moore Square, where Raleigh’s homeless population often congregates.
On Saturday, however, “Raleigh Police Department prevented us from doing our work, for the first time ever. An officer said, quite bluntly, that if we attempted to distribute food, we would be arrested,” Hollowell wrote on the Love Wins blog.
According to Raleigh police, “people were simply informed of a city ordinance that prohibits the actions some groups have been engaged in at the park.”
But Raleigh’s Mayor Nancy McFarlane and City Council member Mary-Ann Baldwin want the city to know that the police intervention happened without their knowledge.
“Raleigh is a progressive city that believes in the values of each of its citizens,” McFarlane said. She added that the city’s Law and Public Safety Committee would meet this week to work out a solution that will allow the charity groups to keep handing out free food to the homeless.
“I feel like they are trying to flush us out and get rid of the riff-raff,” Raheem Andrews, who has depended on the Love Wins free breakfast program since 2009, told the Charlotte Observer. “I don’t know where they’re going to run us to.”
Members of another charity group, Church in the Woods, was told to stop their free food efforts in July. The group then took to serving meals in the parking lot of the local Salvation Army headquarters, across the street from Moore Square.
But last week, the city bought the Salvation Army property, intending to use it for further downtown redevelopment and ordered that the parking lot meal service be halted.
SOURCES: Love Wins Ministries, Charlotte Observer
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