State grants charity permit to feed homeless as Raleigh discusse - WNCT

Raleigh will not enforce ordinance related to food distribution in Moore Square

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Raleigh's safety planning committee meets before a packed house as it looks to come up with a plan for groups offering free food to the homeless in downtown. (Michael Barnard, WNCN) Raleigh's safety planning committee meets before a packed house as it looks to come up with a plan for groups offering free food to the homeless in downtown. (Michael Barnard, WNCN)
A line of people wait to comment during a Raleigh safety planning committee meeting. (Charlotte Huffman, WNCN) A line of people wait to comment during a Raleigh safety planning committee meeting. (Charlotte Huffman, WNCN)
RALEIGH, N.C. -

While Raleigh's safety planning committee met before a packed house Wednesday to discuss a plan for groups offering free food to the homeless in downtown, the state took action to ensure some of those in need don't go hungry.

On Wednesday, the state Department of Administration granted a permit to Church in the Woods for the Raleigh charity to use the grounds at the corner of Lane and Wilmington Streets to feed the homeless.

Raleigh City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee decided at Wednesday's meeting to recommend that the city to continue its current policy of not enforcing the ordinances related to individuals or groups involved in the food distribution to those less fortunate in Moore Square.

The city council will hear the committee's recommendations at Sept. 3 at 1 p.m.

Church in the Woods is permitted to use the grounds from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 8.

"We feel that it is important for North Carolina's charities to be able do their good work in cooperation with State government," Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement. "We are pleased to be able to help."

Church in the Woods applied for the permit with the purpose of serving food, distributing clothes, toiletries, counseling and encouragement. The application was submitted Monday after groups looking to serve the homeless in Moore Square were told this weekend the city would start to enforce an ordinance requiring permits to do so.

For years, groups have served meals at Moore Square Park, a common place where many of Raleigh's homeless gather.

The city says the issue isn't whether to help feed the homeless, but how to do it effectively. A city meeting Wednesday afternoon was packed with people wanting to see how the city addressed the issue.

Assistant city manager Dan Howe told the crowd the city is working to find a solution. Until then, he recommended that the city not change its policy and not arrest anyone. He said instead, the city should start educating groups on what they need to do to get a permit.

Q Brown of the Reality Project drew applause after saying, "If you do stop us from serving in Moore Square, then find someplace else for us to go to continue to help those who are homeless because regardless of what you think it is not mostly their fault.

"Our homeless need so much but you are taking the last thing they have. So if you take the food out of their hands and leave them with nothing the crime  rate is going to go up."

Raleigh Police Chief Deck Brown pointed to littering, begging, alcohol use and public urination as issues that police regularly have to respond to at Moore Square. But Deck acknowledged, "We cannot arrest our way out of this."

"We will continue to work with the city to find a solution," Brown said Wednesday. "We had the best intentions -- it was never to threaten anyone with arrest. Our efforts were simply to promote awareness."

She continued, "While this is a complex issue, we never want to deny anyone the opportunity for outreach in this community."

On Monday, the city called what happened over the weekend "a special opportunity to work in concert with concerned community organizations to gather and find workable solutions to feeding the homeless in a safe manner."

The city said food distribution around Moore Square Park "is not without practical problems for city government."

Mayor Nancy McFarlane said on Sunday that it was a "good thing" that people wanted to help, but that there were issues for the city.

"I know everyone is down here with the best of intentions, but sometimes groups might come and just leave food because they know Moore Square is 'the place,' and I don't want people to run into problems with health and safety," McFarlane said Sunday.

Between 2011 and 2013, Raleigh Police has received 3,445 calls for service to Moore Square, compared to 536 calls to Nash Square during the same period.

Of the incidents reported in Moore Square, 162 have been calls related to murder and drug violations.

Brown said Raleigh Police does not blame the homeless population for causing these incidents.

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