Local News

Raleigh city leaders to meet over Moore Square food flap

Posted August 26, 2013
Updated August 28, 2013

— The Raleigh City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee will convene Wednesday for a special meeting following a local nonprofit group's claim over the weekend that a police officer threatened to arrest volunteers for feeding the homeless in the city's historic Moore Square.

Interim City Manager Perry James said Monday that the three-member panel will discuss how nonprofits can continue their work providing food to those in need while also abiding by a city ordinance that prohibits the distribution of food without a permit.

On Saturday, Rev. Hugh Hollowell, director of Love Wins Ministries in Raleigh, posted in a blog that volunteers were told by officers, without explanation, that they needed to leave and would be arrested if they tried to distribute free coffee and sausage biscuits to approximately 70 people waiting in a line.

The ministry has been handing out food near Moore Square for six years, he said in the blog. He added that obtaining a permit would cost $1600 every weekend and that an officer told him that the city "likely wouldn't approve it anyway."

James said Monday that police have recently started informing people about the ordinance, which has been around since 1998, as the city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department tries to work on a litter and rodent problem in the area.

Other nonprofits say they were recently notified about the ordinance, and James said the city's efforts to clean up Moore Square are nothing new. The four-acre tract is one of Raleigh's original downtown parks that serves as the venue for a number of public events.

It's also a common place for the homeless to gather, and downtown advocates say the goal isn't to get rid of the homeless but to keep the area clean.

"I haven't heard from a business owner that has said, 'We are opposed to the feedings," said David Diaz, president and chief executive officer of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to revitalizing downtown. "Everybody is supportive of the feedings. The dicey part is having so many in one location."

Raleigh does have a soup kitchen, the Shepherd's Table Soup Kitchen, at 121 Hillsborough St., but it operates only on weekdays, when it serves an average of about 320 meals a day – a 22 percent increase over last year.

Executive Director Tamara Gregory said that as a result of the weekend encounter and the city beginning to enforce the ordinance, the staff and board of directors are discussing opening on the weekend.

"It's very disheartening when people are being threatened with jail when they are trying to make the system better," she said.

A spokeswoman for the city parks department declined to comment Monday, as did Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown who referred all questions to Perry.

He declined to comment further on Monday and referred questions to Mayor Nancy McFarlane.

She also was unavailable for comment Monday but said Sunday that she hopes the parks department and the groups can resolve the situation.

"Raleigh is a progressive city that believes in the values of each of its citizens," she said. "We are so fortunate to have dedicated citizens that want to reach out to those in need."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • alwayslovingu30 Aug 29, 2013

    sad but true the state is all about the money.no homelessness is not going away.some can work some cant.if your an alcholic or A druggie,I would never hire you.biz can not keep in place like that an some times the goverment gives checkes to them because they are addicted to alchohol or drugs.that is wrong.talk about tossing money out the window how about pat an perdue exempepted their cabinet members from paying taxes.if I have to pay on A meager paycheck why are they exempt an they get raises of over 12000. per year at one shot.crimminals.now who is tossing money an something that will not change

  • pm2 Aug 28, 2013

    Obamacare saves lives...and bankrupts individuals, companies, & our country.

  • pm2 Aug 28, 2013

    Do we want our parks to attract homeless. Maybe we should build them shelters and cafeterias there too. Why don't they host the homeless at their church???? There is a time and place for everything and I do not think a city park is the place to give out free food...

  • Euro American Aug 27, 2013

    People nowadays (with WRAL's help), would rather whine and whine all day, instead of looking for easy solutions and making progress on issues like this one. The easy fix is to open up the Shepherds Table on the weekend. WRAL should get away from these community dividing stories that incite whining, and instead cover more stories about creating and fostering solutions! Who knows progress could become as contagious as all this whining.

  • Obamacare saves lives Aug 27, 2013

    sheila, I'd empty my entire shopping cart full of trash for 50 cents per item return. Talk about cleaning up.

  • Get your IDs Aug 27, 2013

    This is not progress....this is just sad

    Click to view my profile viking416

    No, continually throwing money at a problem with no results is just sad.

  • Get your IDs Aug 27, 2013

    Much cheaper than city workers - and it will be done in a flash.


    I think Sparkle and Shine's contract

  • Get your IDs Aug 27, 2013

    Time for someone to step up and admit responsibility.

    Honesty first

    shouldn't the homeless do that as well, as a start on the road to some sort of recovery? First step is admitting you have a problem

  • HANS FOR PRESIDENT!!!!! JK Aug 27, 2013

    OK - we have the food, the volunteers, and the needy. What is missing is cleanup? How about giving people 50 cents per item for what they bring to the trashcan in the 1/2 hour after the food distribution? Much cheaper than city workers - and it will be done in a flash.


    Couple of holes in your solution. One hole is that clean up is an "after-problem' if you will. The real problem is these non-profit do-gooders using a public park as a soup kitchen instead of using private property...or better yet, they're own. Then complaining about being picked on because they got called out for breaking a law once they're crowds grew and people got tired of seing droves of homeless lined up for food instead of people enjoying the park (again, what it was built for). It's not what a park is made for. Second hole is the suggestion that you pay people for cleaning up a mess they made. For real?

  • HANS FOR PRESIDENT!!!!! JK Aug 27, 2013

    I'd be in favor of the city installing a homeless Olympic style swimming pool right in the middle of Moore Square Park. It might bring these people a little bit of joy as they struggle to get through a rough patch in their lives.

    Obamacare saves lives

    Just full of jokes this week, aren't we bama?