Local News

Raleigh parks director: Moore Square feedings 'out of control'

Posted September 26, 2013

— The director of Raleigh's parks department sought advice from the city attorney about how to stop charity groups from feeding the homeless in Moore Square a month before police officers allegedly threatened the do-gooders with arrest for handing out meals, according to emails released to WRAL Thursday.

The groups took to social media to lambaste the city, and their campaign garnered national attention.

Mayor Nancy McFarlane and City Council have denied that they were part of the decision to ramp up enforcement of an ordinance that requires anyone serving food in the park to obtain a permit. But other city officials said litter, rodent and safety problems at the historic downtown park prompted the crackdown.

Last month, the City Council waived the permit requirement while it considers compromise options that would allow the charitable groups to continue their good works in an alternate location.

In a July 11 email, Diane Sauer, director of the city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department, told City Attorney Tom McCormick that the Moore Square feedings were "out of control."

"Is there anything we can do from a legal perspective to stop the feeding around Moore Square?" Sauer wrote. "I recognize this is a very sensitive topic, but it is truly out of control."

A day earlier, Jayne Kirkpatrick, the city's public affairs director, wrote that her department was "developing a public education campaign on the harm that is done by persons feeding the homeless in Moore Square."

"I need photos of the feedings, the debris that remains, the rodents," Kirkpatrick wrote. "I need extensive footage. There is a real problem I understand from 9 to the afternoon on Saturdays."

One month later, according to an Aug. 11 email from Raleigh police Sgt. A.C. Pugh, officers warned charity group Humans Beans Together about the ordinance.

"The group, though disappointed, decided to dismantle their feeding station and move on and seek counsel from their 'pro-bono' lawyers," Pugh wrote.

Two weeks later, Love Wins Ministries said officers threatened them with arrest for feeding the homeless and the group launched a social media campaign to bring awareness to the issue.

"This morning we showed up at Moore Square at 9:00 a.m., just like we have done virtually every Saturday and Sunday for the last six years," the ministry's pastor and director, Rev. Hugh Hollowell, wrote in a blog post Aug. 24. "Today, officers from 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."

The following day, hours after news of the crackdown appeared on WRAL, emails show that city leaders began compiling information about problems caused by the feedings.

Police Lt. Richard Hoffman suggested in an Aug. 26 email that Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown present city leaders with various social media posts about the homeless in Moore Square  to "demonstrate the opinion of the silent majority of citizens that the park is unsanitary, misused and unsafe."

At a City Council committee meeting later that week, Deck-Brown said her officers were called to Moore Square more than 3,000 times over the past two years, almost six times the number of calls to Nash Park, a nearby downtown park.

It wasn't clear from the emails who directed Raleigh police to crack down on the feedings.

The charitable groups have said they're doubtful that a reasonable compromise can be achieved and that city leaders are just trying to save face.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • dukefanv12 Sep 30, 2013

    In less that 2 years, from 2011 to 2013, there have been over 3500 calls to the police about Moore square, and the unacceptable behavior. I wonder if any of the people who applaud the feeders would accept the same situation to continue in their neighborhood if they called the police 10 times, let alone thousands. Fort those who are math challenged, that is over 5 a day, every day.

  • heelzfan4 Sep 27, 2013

    "YES! I've said that all along. They need to buy all of the homeless bus tickets to Philly. That's what ATL did when they started to clean up the Underground. And you say they are citizens, but not tax paying citizens so they really aren't entitled to anything especially perks of a taxpayer. And stop with the bleeding heart rhetoric of "this might be you", "hope you or your family never become homeless". A lot of these people choose this lifestyle and wouldn't better themselves given a chance. You lump all of them into one group and that's not how it is. People that work hard and educate themselves tend to not be homeless. Bartmeister September 27, 2013."

    You sound like a really great person ! Hope you never lose your job, home and money. By the way, it is county Residency LAW that if anyone spends the night within the county limits - they are automatically a resident of the county, where the city of Raleigh is located. What goes around comes around...just saying...

  • bigDC Sep 27, 2013

    Please remember the golden rule....amiles1

    Tell that to the people who are urinating on peoples property where there kids can see them.

    Tell that to the guy who followed me two blocks telling me how I had some change and should give it to him.

    Tell that to the people getting free meals and discarding the Styrofoam box in the grass of a city owned park.

    Don't pull the Golden Rule stuff here, this is directly effecting the law abiding, contributing people of our city.

  • geoherb1 Sep 27, 2013

    I applaud those who try to help the homeless in an organized fashion. I'm frequently around Moore Square on weekends and have never felt threatened by the homeless. They seem to line up peacefully and wait for the food handouts.

  • etshoney Sep 27, 2013

    All I can say is that it is the responsibility of the charities to clean up after their give-away. I am so sorry for the problems but many of those folks are mentally ill and may be leaving litter everywhere, causing a problem with rodents etc.. Why not have a joint effort to create a food kitchen that could be open all the time with each church donating time etc.. I wish they would start enforcing the liter laws everywhere in this state. I see pick=up trucks with trash flying everywhere and cops go past them and never stop. The state needs money? How about enforcing the law and start collecting fines. We have a beautiful city. Let's try to be proud residents.

  • amiles1 Sep 27, 2013

    I hope to God that you're never homeless or hungry. Despite your ignorance, if you ever were, I'd still feed you and give you a warm blanket regardless of the "rules". Please remember the golden rule.

  • curiousgeorgia Sep 27, 2013

    Downtown Raleigh is just plain gross! What a pity, it had such potential.

  • Unbroken Sep 27, 2013


  • kcfoxie Sep 27, 2013

    are the homeless not citizens?

  • lshudgins44 Sep 27, 2013

    I notice the resistance of the "feeders" to the idea of giving away food to the homeless somewhere other than Moore Square, as well as their subsequent running to the media. This leads me to believe that perhaps the issue for them is that they are afraid that they won't get as many pats on the back for their good deeds if they don't feed the homeless under a public spotlight and get publicity for it.