Raleigh, N.C. — The Raleigh City Council agreed Tuesday with a committee recommendation that would ease permit rules for charities providing meals to the homeless in Moore Square.
The city got national attention when volunteers felt threatened with arrest Aug. 25. Representatives of Love Wins Ministries in Raleigh said they were told several times that that they would be arrested if they didn't stop passing out the food and leave the area.
A law requiring charities to have a permit to distribute meals has been on the books since 1998, but it has rarely been enforced. Tuesday's decision would continue that policy of non-enforcement while the city works on a long-term solution, which could include identification of other areas where meals might be offered.
Love Wins and other charities balked at what they called pressure to disperse and used social media to plead their case. The city reacted swiftly. Within days, the Law & Public Safety Committee had lifted the permit fee. Tuesday's vote cements that action.
"People here have a lot of passion, but they are also reasonable and they want to do the right thing," said Mary Baldwin, a member of the city council. "I think we're closer than most people realize to coming up with a solution."
The city will be looking to grow the number of groups helping the homeless while keeping litter and traffic problems in check, goals that Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown described as in line with the original ordinance.
A proposal will be formulated this fall, with recommendations to be presented by late November.