Raleigh City Council will allow food distribution to continue

Sausage biscuits get temporary reprieve:

Charities handing out free food in downtown’s Moore Square won’t get stopped by police this weekend after a City Council committee voted Wednesday to temporarily relax a ban on such distributions.

The move came after a three-hour public hearing that drew dozens of speakers angry about the recent crackdown on food distribution to the homeless and less fortunate. No one spoke in favor of banning the events, though some suggested that the one-block Moore Square park might not be the best place for charity work.

It appears as if the bulk of the people involved genuinely care, and are trying to figure out a way in which all citizens concerned will be served well. But even well-meaning folks can stumble when it comes to an issue as complex and difficult to solve as homelessness. Here is an excerpt from an exchange I had with a friend:

I'm sorry, but when I see something like this:

"Moore Square, near the Marbles children’s museum and a revitalized business area in City Market, is a pleasant place for families and for weekend outings. The city has an interest in seeing that it remains so. Regular Saturday and Sunday gatherings of charitable efforts to feed the needy in that area could be disruptive."

it makes me want to scream.

When you're homeless, there aren't a whole lot of options on "places to go" to spend time. A majority of the real estate in any city (or town) is private property, where homeless can be charged with trespassing. So that leaves public places like parks. And every single city park has got some citizens group that would prefer the homeless not go there.

I'm sure there are behind-the-scenes issues with property owners and developers leaning on city officials to pass or enforce this or that ordinance. There always are. But when you're homeless, one of your biggest challenges deals with freedom of movement, or the freedom just to be. Restricting those things even more won't "gently nudge" the homeless into greener pastures. They're not an endangered species that needs to be moved to a preserve. As a matter of fact, this particular species is thriving, and we need to do a hell of a lot more to reverse the growth of this demographic.

But in the meantime, we need to remember: the homeless haven't lost their citizenship, they haven't lost their connection to the Bill of Rights, and they haven't lost their need to be treated with dignity and respect by their fellow citizens.

Comments

Well said Steve

While I do recognize that some of those who wind up homeless are mentally ill, the vast majority are pretty harmless. Prejudice is an ugly thing, and comes in many forms.

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"...the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be."

Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail

Yeah, you're much more likely

to get ripped off shopping in Wal Mart than you are walking in this park. The other day I was going through one of my closets looking for something and I noticed five different (Chinese manufactured) cordless telephone bases that had crapped out on me sometime in the last ten years, plus a handful of alarm clocks.

It's no different than having somebody pick your pocket.

Most of the mentally ill are also harmless

A former mh patient from Raleigh, who is now an MD and in recovery, did a great interview with WUNC's Frank Stasio about the problems associated with homelessness.

You can hear that interview at WUNC's State of Things
"The Plight Of The Impoverished In The Triangle"

Most of the mentally ill are like the others who are homeless. Lost job, lost wife or husband, bad credit history. NOT many are violent or criminal. That is a fallacy. They are more likely to be victims of crimes than to commit violent crimes.

Martha Brock

Thanks, and an apology

I chose my words poorly. I did not mean to imply that any significant portion of the mentally ill are violent or prone to criminality. As you said, most of them have just hut a rough patch, and once you start sliding downhill it's hard to overcome gravity and reverse course. I've never been on the street, but I have been perilously close to it a few times. It's easier to get there than most people realize.

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"...the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be."

Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail

Wasteland of the Free

Iris Dement's song captures the essence.

"Living in the Wasteland of the Free
Where the poor have become the enemy.
Let's blame our troubles on the weak ones,
Sounds like some kind of Hitler remedy.
Living in the Wasteland of the Free."

We cut unemployment benefits for people whose employers can't properly run a business or don't have customers to sell to, because those people are somehow at fault. We shut down mental health services for the masses, including for too many veterans suffering from PTSD and other effects of wars that we shouldn't fight. We allow companies to pay less than subsistence wages, requiring employees to rely on Medicaid and other government assistance, then cut that very subsistence.

On the other hand, it does seem there are folks working in good faith to make sure these hungry people are fed on the weekends, and I pray for their success.

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The measure of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR

Raleigh Rescue Mission

None of the articles are pointing out that they are at Moore Square because the Raleigh Rescue Mission is across the street. When you don't have transportation, and your services are in the vicinity, that's where people congregate. There's also the church at Longview Center, a building with barred gates and "buzz-in" security. Incongruent to me to have a "church" (though Unity Church of the Triangle is a progressive community, I don't know what they do service-wise in the vicinity -perhaps someone reading this knows?) which is locked up impenetrable, though the building has other offices/uses besides the church operations, which are on a rental basis, I believe.