Every Saturday morning I see 50 of my friends in Moore Square. We catch up, laugh, share advice, and enjoy breakfast together. It’s my favorite time of the week, so when the Biscuitgate process produced the Food Distribution Alternative Task Force, charged with engaging a public dialogue around the issue of sharing food in Moore Square, I jumped at the opportunity up to participate in what were bound to be exciting changes in Raleigh’s downtown community.
In the first few Task Force meetings last summer, City personnel listened to organizations currently sharing food in the park, stakeholders in potential changes. They wanted to know what we would need to compassionately and successfully share food in the downtown core. Fast forward to April, and the Task Force, comprised of any willing organization or citizen, has accomplished a lot in the last few months:
- We’ve worked with the City to acquire a building for our friends to eat in every weekend. Included in the building are bathrooms, tables and chairs, and outdoor seating – none of which we have in Moore Square right now. The building is called the Oak City Outreach Center (see pictures above).
- The creation of resource guides to distribute to people who may be in need of services, or community members who want to be aware of resources.
- The creation of an education component to inform the public about the needs of people who may be experiencing homelessness.
- Ideas and goals for a long-term plan to address homelessness in Raleigh.
- A comprehensive map of service locations & resource distribution locations the downtown core.
Love Wins is excited about the Task Force’s accomplishments, and we’re thankful for the collaboration and willingness of the organizations and City personnel involved in the process.
But the work of the Task Force isn’t just lists, hand shakes, and meetings.
The Task Force has created a space for hospitality to flourish – for people to feel included, welcomed, and invited to be in community with each other. The new building is exciting and a great addition to Raleigh, but it’s not actually about the food. It’s about the importance of community and making community available to Raleigh’s most vulnerable citizens.
By creating a space for people to freely enter, to use the bathroom, to wash their hands, and then to sit down and enjoy breakfast, we are making space for community to happen. Sharing food in the Oak City Outreach Center is an opportunity for individuals and organizations to develop relationships with Josh, a friend staying at the men’s shelter while he desperately searches for job, and Craig, a church goer searching for a way to connect to the world around him.
Josh and Craig can come back and see each other each week over breakfast, strengthening their relationship by keeping up with each others’ lives.
The Oak City Outreach Center is our opportunity to be in community with each other. This is our chance to know our neighbors, to experience their joys and struggles, and for our neighbors to experience ours.
That’s why come June, when the Outreach Center opens, Saturdays will be even more special to me.by