Local News

Woman living in stolen car draws focus on plight of Moore Square homeless

Posted March 13, 2014

— 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.


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  • JustOneGodLessThanU Mar 18, 2014

    Really? I can't quote the story where this homeless person said "God told her to take (the) car"?

    And then ask a question about what other folks would do if God told them the same thing?

    It's thought-provoking, yes, but so controversial that it doesn't meet TOS? Really?

  • jackaroe123 Mar 14, 2014

    Getting to the bottom of why someone does something is not justifying or rationalizing it. It's understanding it. You can understand something w/o excusing it, and you pretty much have to understand it if you ever want to treat it. I mean, has a plumber ever told you why water was puddling up under your sink, and that meant it was okay for it to continue leaking? Or is that the means through which we address it and fix it?

  • Malakai Bluebone Mar 14, 2014
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    That does not fly at all. Everyone is tempted by different things all the time. I am sure you understand that. You can apply that fact to any aspect of life, not just homelessness.

    There are millions of people every day in desperate situations that make a choice daily not to commit a crime.

    How can you possibly think this person's situation is so different than anyone else's that it is justifiable or even understandable that someone commits a crime, based on circumstances.

    Look around you at the people who have more than you, do you think that because they have more than you then it is understandable or justifiable that you would take it from them? How is that temptation any different?

    Influences are not why people break laws, they break them because they choose to.

  • Obamacare rises again Mar 14, 2014

    I'm sure the keys were in the ignition when it was stolen. Holly looks overly trusting of the general public. Big mistake.

  • Malakai Bluebone Mar 14, 2014
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    I have not posted anything about punishment for crime. Please stick to the subject, which as you posted I wrote is "stealing is stealing".

    BTW, I don't have an apple tree, could we switch that to peach?

  • jackaroe123 Mar 14, 2014

    If the only advice you have is "get a job" and the depth of your thinking stops at "stealing is stealing," they're not being helped, either. That's a thoughtless, one-size-fits-all response that doesn't take anyone's circumstances into account. How would you suggest a person who has been homeless for, say, 12 years, just "get a job"? That's kind of like "try harder." What does that really even mean? How condescending is it to suggest something so simple, as if people in that situation can't come up w/ that on their own?

  • Brian Jenkins Mar 14, 2014

    It seems a lot of these commentors have never been on the streets, hungry for DAYS, it will make you do bad things. Maybe you were lucky enough to live in a house your whole life. Maybe even lucky enough to have parents. Even luckier to have a friend to take you in. I was homeless at 17. All my fault. Not my dads that walked out. Maybe it was my moms fault for dying too early. Shame on you people.

  • BeKind Mar 14, 2014

    Mental Health!!! Some people are not competant enough to gain and keep a job. They also don't won't to follow the rules of group homes. Every community has them. They often prefer to live on the streets. We had a lady in our town with mental health issues sleeping on the floor of the post office at night after it closed this winter. Sad cases. Be thankful for your physical and mental health!

  • Lightfoot3 Mar 14, 2014

    "Stealing is stealing" - Damien Thorned

    Should a horse thief, and a hungry person that takes an apple from your tree, be punished the same?

  • jackaroe123 Mar 14, 2014

    If you can acknowledge this, damien, you shouldn't keep returning to "stealing is stealing." None of us has forgotten that, but that is only the starting point. If some people are "forced into" a type of life, it stands to reason that their choices -- still their responsibility -- have been influenced, as well. You can choose to steal or choose not to steal, regardless, but the temptation to steal is a lot worse when you don't have the resources to pay for basic necessities.