Woman living in stolen car draws focus on plight of Moore Square homeless
Posted March 13, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — It's one thing to have your car stolen. It’s quite another to find someone living in it.
That’s what happened to Holly Mohajer, who discovered her car missing last month from Mo’s Diner, the restaurant she owns near Moore Square in downtown Raleigh.
The vehicle was recovered this week in Wrightsville Beach. Police said Susan Hyland, 59, a homeless woman known to frequent Moore Square, was living in it.
“I found her Bible on the front seat. She had her bed made up (in the back), and her suitcase is behind the driver’s seat,” Mohajer said. “When the police officers pulled her over, she said God told her to take (the) car.”
For 17 years, Mojaher has prided herself in peacefully coexisting with Moore Square, where many homeless people stay.
“I’m such a trusting person that I was a little taken aback,” Mohajer said.
Homeless advocates say the winter had made many people more desperate. There's even a makeshift camp in the woods near Raleigh where many stay.
“In Raleigh, we have a situation where people are living under porches, abandoned buildings, crawl spaces, anywhere where they can roll out a sleeping bag,” said Alice McGee of Church in the Woods, a homeless outreach ministry. “You're looking at survival mode for a huge number of people.”
McGee says the city is working to help solve such problems. A task force is searching for public property where nonprofit groups such as hers can serve the homeless.
“I'm really excited because the city is making progress now looking for property for a permanent place where a lot of agencies can come together,” she said.
The city has been studying the issue since August, when volunteers said they were kicked out of Moore Square and threatened with arrest for feeding the homeless there.
The city established a Food Distribution Task Force to study alternatives to food handouts. The group determined the best option was to use a vacant warehouse at 215 S. Person St., behind the former downtown Salvation Army, as a temporary distribution center.
Despite what happened to her, Mohajer still believes in peaceful coexistence.
“I give them respect that they deserve, and as long as they respect me and I respect them, we're fine,” she said.
Hyland was charged with possession of stolen property and held in the New Hanover County jail. Raleigh police have also charged her with larceny of a motor vehicle. She will be returned to Wake County to deal with that charge.