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Raleigh ordinance stopping groups from feeding homeless

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Every weekend in downtown Raleigh, you'll find various groups providing hot meals for the homeless.

"Especially on the weekends when there is no other place for them to go and get a meal," explained Todd Pratt with the outreach group "Human Beans Together."

For some, these meals are their only source of food on the weekends.

"I don't have any family here, not one family member and if these people were not here, I would not make it," said Wanda Borrero, who is currently homeless.

"They see you through when you're really hungry," said William Pantelides, who is also without a home.

Some groups like "Love Wins Ministries" has been serving the homeless for six years, but are now being told to leave the places they usually do it.

"The police came and told us if we distribute food we would be arrested," said Hugh Hollowell, pastor and director of Love Wins Ministries.

Due to a city ordinance, distributing food on city owned property, in a public park, or on the sidewalk is not allowed without a permit.

For years the groups have been serving meals downtown at Moore Square Park, a common place that many of Raleigh's homeless gather.

But now Raleigh police are informing them of the city ordinance and telling them to leave.

On Sunday, Human Beans Together set up in a pay-for-parking lot. They purchased multiple spots and set up tables to serve their food. This time they faced opposition from the property owner. Pratt says the owner told them they could stay on Saturday, but couldn't do it again.

"We're not activists we're just people trying to feed hungry people," said Hollowell.

It's a debate that's stirring up a lot of emotion.

"It kind of ticks me off," said Pantelides

"I mean they might as well kill us. That's what it's coming to, they might as well kill us," said Borrero.

"It seems to me the city's message to us is ‘we're not going to feed poor people and neither can you,'" said Hollowell.

Several of the groups who have been serving food for years are asking, why is the city enforcing this ordinance now?

WNCN asked Mayor Nancy McFarlane.

"I can't really say why now but I think there are more people want to help and it's a process of informing people," said McFarlane

She said the city is working on a way to better organize these groups.

"It's an interesting problem because so many people want to help and that's a good thing," said McFarlane, "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."

John Crumpler is homeless and received a meal on Saturday.

"They don't  want the crowds of people they feel it's an eyesore in downtown Raleigh which I understand that too. It doesn't look proper, but then again a lot of us don't have a place to go," said Crumpler.

McFarlane said city leaders will be meeting this week with Raleigh police and the Parks and Recreations department to figure out a plan and places these groups can distribute food.

Many of the groups say the mayor told them Raleigh Police will be focusing on a solution instead of arrests, until the situation is worked out.

Jonathan Rodriguez

Jonathan Rodriguez is an investigative reporter and member of the WNCN Investigates team. His storytelling specialty is connecting the dots to get to the truth, with a goal of delivering results for our community. If you have something you’d like WNCN to investigate, contact Jonathan.

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