Biscuitgate

Committee Will Hear Task Force Recommendations

biscuitgate

Update 12/3: City Council unanimously approved the Task Force’s recommendations, detailed below.

Update 11/26: Reaction To November 26 City Council Meeting

Tomorrow the City of Raleigh is taking a positive and generous step toward building a city that includes all of its citizens.

The City Council’s Law & Public Safety Committee will meet on November 26 at 3 p.m. to consider the Food Distribution Alternative Task Force’s recommendation to use a warehouse adjacent to Moore Square as a temporary solution to sharing food in Moore Square. If the committee approves the recommendation, the larger City Council will still have to approve the recommendation in order for it to go into effect. City staff have told us that the warehouse, which needs to be brought up to code, could be ready in the late spring.

Notes from the October 22 Task Force meeting, the last one before tomorrow’s committee meeting, detail the location of the warehouse, its layout, a funding plan, and what the city will provide to make the building usable for the purpose of sharing food. Click here to read these notes, and the warehouse details start on page 17.

We appreciate the hard work of city staff and of the Task Force, a group we were honored to be a part of.

As with past meetings related to sharing food in Moore Square, attendance is important. If you can make it to the meeting tomorrow, we would really appreciate your time and support. If you can’t make it to tomorrow’s meeting, you can continue to contact the City Council and the Mayor to remind Raleigh’s leaders that the city has the potential to be welcoming to its vulnerable citizens, too.

Related Information:

Out Of Control: City Says Sharing Food In Moore Square Is Harmful

 

Nearly two weeks ago the Raleigh News & Observer requested emails from the City of Raleigh for the period of time immediately preceding the unsanctioned threat of arrest of several groups for sharing food in Moore Square. Most of the emails surfaced, except the emails sent in the two weeks prior to the police crackdown in Moore Square. The City suspiciously claimed that those messages, the ones most likely to contain information unflattering to the City, were “missing.”

The remainder of the emails have since surfaced and made their way to the News & Observer. Their contents reveal that in July certain City staff members ramped up their efforts to push out the groups that share food in Moore Square.

Unbeknownst to the City Council, Raleigh Parks and Recreation Director Diane Sauer, Raleigh Police Lt. Kevin Carswell, and Raleigh Public Affairs Director Jayne Kirkpatrick have been colluding for months to solve an issue that Sauer sees as “out of control,” according to one email message to City Attorney Tom McCormick.

“Is there anything we can do from a legal perspective to stop the feeding around Moore Square? I recognize this is a very sensitive topic, but it is truly out of control,” she wrote.

Out of control— I never thought I would hear from a public servant that the compassion of dozens of groups could be deemed “out of control.”

What’s out of control is the power hungry actions of Lt. Carswell, who according to the emails, enjoys harassing the groups sharing food in Moore Square.

“… [Lieutenant Carswell] seemed pleased/laughed about the fact that he irritated several groups that are feeding on the sidewalks,” wrote Sgt. John Marx.

Together he and Kirkpatrick gathered manipulative information taken out of context for the purpose of convincing the public that sharing food in the park causes problems in Moore Square.

“We are developing a public education campaign on the harm that is done by persons feeding the homeless in Moore Square. Therefore, I need photos of the feedings, the debris that remains, the rodents, the collection (by trash crews). I need extensive footage,” wrote Kirkpatrick to Raleigh Television Staffers.

I want to make sure you understand that someone working for the City believes that it’s harmful to share food with someone who may have slept outside or in a cockroach infested room the night before. And that person has the power to manipulate how the public perceives information about Moore Square and the people who rely on it.

But then again, we’re out of control, right?

It’s interesting that these City of Raleigh employees feel so strongly that the public needs to be educated on the evils of sharing food with hungry people, lest they are kept in the dark while nonprofits and church groups continue to care for the Raleigh’s most vulnerable citizens— an honor that the City refuses to do anything about besides saving face and controlling the conversation with public meetings.

These scathing emails come on the heels of the ones turned over to the News & Observer nearly two weeks ago, which named Sauer and Community Oriented Government Coordinator Dana Youst as the initiators to push groups sharing food out of Moore Square and to “clean up” Moore Square.

All of this information is in direct contradiction with what every city staffer has told us. We have sat in countless private meetings and listened with patience and trust as public servants told us that no one has been working to remove groups like ours from Moore Square. That no one saw this coming. That everyone in the room wants to make sure that people experiencing homelessness eat three meals a day.

So, who’s out of control now?

I would like to be able to tell you how this new information affects our future interactions with City staff as we do our damnedest to move forward on the path of reconciliation. But I don’t have an answer to that question. In the nearly two weeks since the first batch of infuriating emails, no one from the City has attempted to contact us. Not even to tell us that we got it wrong.

I can tell you, however, how this information and the culture that affirms it is affecting our community and the people we serve. But the people hanging out on the first floor of 707 West Jones Street don’t care about these emails. They don’t care about the scandal receiving international attention in a city constantly named as the best this or that.

They care that a man with a gun threatened to arrest their pastor for trying to share breakfast with them. They care that their mom’s food stamps got cut a few weeks ago and now she has to stand in line on Saturday and Sunday morning with them. They care that for as long as they can remember, government leaders have shunned them and their families because centuries of history have justified the racism, discrimination, and prejudice that we saw the day an officer of the law threatened to send me to jail for passing out biscuits.

So we are left with as many unanswered questions as we had two weeks ago, if not more.

  • Why will the Raleigh Police Department not acknowledge that the arrest threat even happened, let alone hold anyone responsible for disobeying orders?
  • What does Interim City Manager Perry James plan to do about all of this?
  • Why was the City Council not notified of the intended policy changes? Why did the Raleigh Police Department push for those changes?
  • It seems that Lt. Carswell’s reputation is widely known. Why is his behavior acceptable to the police department?

We need your help to do two things:

  1. Write or call the City of Raleigh to remind them that their actions to push poor people and their food out of Moore Square are reprehensible, unacceptable, and embarrassing. We also need to ask the City of Raleigh the questions listed above.
  2. Attend the public Food Distribution Alternatives Task Force meetings. Only the task force takes part in the discussion but the meeting itself is public, meaning anyone can sit in the audience. The next meetings will take place October 10 and October 22, both at 6 p.m. at Marbles Kids Museum.

You can contact any or all of the following city employees to share your opinion and/or ask questions.

Interim City Manager Perry James: 919-996-3070  // citymanager@raleighnc.gov

Parks & Recreation Director Diane Sauer: 919-996-3285 // Diane.Sauer@raleighnc.gov

Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown: 919-996-3385 // cassandra.deck-brown@raleighnc.gov

Emails: Raleigh Leaders Plotted To Criminalize Feeding Poor

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An article released last night by News & Observer reporter Colin Campbell revealed that City of Raleigh officials at the highest levels plotted for months to find “legal” ways to keep people who wish to help the poor out of Moore Square Park.

This is in direct contradiction to public statements by Police Chief Deck-Brown, Community Oriented Government Coordinator Dana Youst, who works for Raleigh Parks and Recreation, and her boss, Diane Sauer, who heads up Parks and Recreation. The consistent message from all of them was that there was no effort to keep poor people out of Moore Square.

In the last three weeks, we have had meetings with all of these people, and all of whom assured us that there was no conspiracy or plot to “clean up” Moore Square or to only allow the “right” people to enjoy it. We now know that not to be the case and that as far back as February of this year the Parks and Recreation Department laid the groundwork for such a “clean up.” In a meeting this past Thursday, one of the people mentioned in the article interrupted me mid-sentence to let me know she cared about all the people of Raleigh.

Not, apparently, those who are poor, or those who seek to help them.

The emails also reveal that Sauer changed park policies on the advice of the Raleigh Police Department to allow indiscriminate banning of classes of people and that she sought legal counsel to find ways to ban food distribution on public sidewalks.

Apparently, the Raleigh City Council was not notified of either the policy changes that Sauer implemented or the desire of Parks and Recreation to ban food distribution.

More Questions

In the past three weeks, we thought we were working with the City to develop answers, but now we are left with only more questions. For example:

– Why are the emails missing for the two weeks prior to our being thrown out of the park? What would those emails show that the City does not want the public to know?

– We are three weeks after the day food distribution was shut down when the Raleigh Police Department threatened to arrest multiple people, from multiple groups, over an entire day. Chief Deck-Brown’s only public comment has been that she told the officers the day before to not arrest anyone. Why will the Raleigh Police Department not acknowledge that the event even happened, let alone hold anyone responsible for disobeying orders?

– It is obvious that there was a long-term plot to criminalize the poor and to run off those who seek to help the poor, despite the consistent assurances by City staff that there was no plot. And now that emails are missing – emails that are part of the public record, by the way – it appears there is an effort to cover that plot up. In light of this, what does interim City Manager Perry James intend to do about it?

– Why was the City Council not notified of policy changes around who Diane Sauer will allow to use city parks? Why did the Raleigh Police Department push for those policy changes?

Choreographed Betrayal

I suppose that if a police officer threatens to arrest a pastor for sharing food with hungry people, I shouldn’t be surprised that other City staff also conspired to push poor folks out of the same public park, or that they conveniently can’t find the emails from the time period of the premeditated crackdown. But this is where we find ourselves, in a City whose staff systematically disenfranchises poor people and writes orders to profile its most vulnerable citizens for the sake of… well, themselves.

When we reported that a Raleigh police officer threatened to arrest me for sharing food on a Moore Square sidewalk, the world responded, and we have spent the last three weeks building relationships within the City administration as we answer our call to advocacy and reconciliation. Now we understand why the meetings were going so well. The Parks and Recreation staff had more to hide than we realized, and they wanted to keep it that way.

I have a feeling that the meetings will be tenser from now on.

The City’s next move to satisfy the seemingly predetermined conclusion to their public relations and policy nightmare is a public meeting on Monday, September 16, in Marbles Kids Museum, the president of which openly voiced her disapproval of food distribution in Moore Square at the Law and Public Safety Committee hearing on August 28. She also asserted in her statement that the business the museum has brought to Raleigh is more valuable than the people who hang out in Moore Square.

Oh, and this is the third year in a row that Marbles has received funding from the City of Raleigh Arts Council. So you tell me if this seems choreographed to you.

Because the deck is stacked against us, it’s important that people like you show up at the meeting to support the rights of those of us who are poor. Meeting time and exact location is here.

The meeting’s format will differ from that of a public hearing. What we know is that the audience will split into small groups, each with a facilitator, maps, easels, and a City employee documenting the conversation. We’re not sure who the facilitators will be. The small groups will brainstorm. We’re also not sure where or to whom that information will go.

It’s important to remember that the meeting is only about food distribution. It’s not about shelters, transportation, or health care. Knowing that a few key ideas to keep in mind while in your small group:

– This is a geographical issue. It is not acceptable that distribution locations exist solely or even primarily in areas off of the bus line, like north Raleigh, or in areas already struggling with poverty, like southeast Raleigh. We will not accept a solution that further pushes poor people out of the downtown core, and we certainly won’t let the City push people into the largely ignored part of town just because it thinks that poor folks already fit in better there anyway.

– The temporary non-enforcement of the ordinance prohibiting sharing food in the park is just that– temporary. Another decision will come at the November 26 City Council meeting. It is by no means a long-term, sustainable solution to ignoring and devaluing Raleigh’s most vulnerable citizens for decades.

– By not already having installed a weekend food distribution solution, the City has shifted the burden to the private sector. Namely, nonprofits and religious groups. The City has refused to claim its most vulnerable citizens, and then it placed constraints on the very people who try to pick up its slack. Most of whom, by the way, are also citizens of Raleigh and pay the taxes to keep up Moore Square. The City needs to take ownership of a weekend food distribution solution instead of disempowering the people who try to show compassion for their hungry neighbors.

At some point, the City will form a task force of interested organizations that will meet three times before the November 26 City Council meeting. The task force will make recommendations to the City Council on how it should handle the apparently very complicated issue of making sure that all of its citizens are taken care of.

Remaining Hopeful

We are, as you can imagine, beyond frustrated. No one likes being lied to. No one likes being the target of a systemic plot to keep you out. No one likes to think they live in a city where that would be tolerated, let alone carried out by City officials.

Regardless, we remain prisoners of hope. We hope that the City will call the plotters into account. We hope for the day when the only hope of the hungry is not some church lady from the ‘burbs to bring a sandwich. Heck, we hope for a day when there are no hungry. But right now, we are just captivated with the hope that one day we will see a Raleigh that is for everyone.

Love Wins In The News and Observer

 

You may have seen the article about Love Wins in the News and Observer this morning, which talks about our explosive growth over the last three years.

While we are thankful for the article and the generous spirit in which it was written, there are a few things we wish to clear up.

1. The article used the words “tax issues” as if we had done something wrong. We have not – we merely filed for an extension to do our taxes, just like lots of people do in April for their personal taxes.

The extension gave us until August 15th to file, and ours were filed on the 10th of August 2013.

2. “Hollowell says he wants to talk with the people he’s helping about their lives – not about Jesus.”

Obviously, I love me some Jesus. I preach every Sunday in our chapel, almost always on something Jesus said. If you want to talk about Jesus, I can do that and love to do that.

However, if you’re experiencing homelessness and have had to listen to countless sermons to get a sandwich or a bowl of soup, I am not going to be the person to tell you I can’t listen to you until I tell you, yet again, about Jesus.

Because, honestly, that would be all about me, and what I want, and not about them, and what they might need or want. And after all, homelessness is not a moral problem – it is a relationship problem.

City Council Votes Committee Suggestions Into Law

 

Text of City Council's decision.

City Council’s decision.

Today the Raleigh City Council voted to temporarily not enforce the ordinance currently in place that prohibits sharing food in Moore Square.

“The Committee recommends not enforcing the rules and regulations relating to feeding the homeless in Moore Square until administration develops a possible solution to the issues for consideration at the November 26, 2013 Law and Public Safety Committee meeting. It is understood the stay of enforcement only relates to feeding the homeless at Moore Square.”

The decision comes on the heels of the recommendations made by the Law & Public Safety Committee that arose from a hearing last week.

Love Wins would like to recognize the swift and attentive manner in which the City Council responded to the incident in Moore Square, and we look forward to working together on the long, hard road to reconciliation that is before us as Raleigh learns to embrace all of its citizens.

Editor’s Note: The handwritten clause in the photo details an amendment made to that recommendation, that the City Council will include Love Wins Ministries and other specific groups when it moves forward.

Thanks For Bringing Back Our Breakfast

The usual crowd joined our partner church, Millbrook Baptist, on August 31.

Today Love Wins Ministries shared breakfast with approximately 100 people, many of whom are experiencing homelessness or food insecurity. This is a continuation of a promise we have kept to our community for the last six years.

We and the people we minister among are pleased that the Mayor and City Council have chosen to not enforce the ordinance that prohibits the sharing of food with people, thus ensuring that people of good will can make up for the gap in social services that exists on the weekends. We recognize that this is not a permanent solution, but merely the first step toward making Raleigh a truly hospitable city.

Love Wins would also like to recognize the swift and attentive manner in which the City Council responded to last weekend’s incident in Moore Square, and we look forward to working together on the long, hard road to reconciliation that is before us as Raleigh learns to embrace all of its citizens.

In the the photos below, breakfast guests and volunteers thank the Mayor and City Council for temporarily not enforcing the ordinance. Thank you for bringing back our breakfast.

Being Fed

Sandwich

In the beginning was the tweet. And the tweet begat a blog post, and the blog post begat the media

And thus was born #Biscuitgate.

And the last week has been a whirlwind of phone calls and media interviews and position statements and blog responses.

Oh, and along the way, my cat Tony almost died, and $900 dollars we did not have to spend later, he is home, but still throws up when we give him his medicine. And my garden is flipping me the middle finger after being neglected all week.

And all of this on top of our “routine” work. People in rehab. People about to be turned out of the shelter. LGBT folks that cannot find a shelter that will accept them. Worrying because the soup kitchen will be closed on Monday, and not knowing how the folks that depend on it will eat.

The only reason any of it has been able to happen has been the amazing staff and volunteers here at Love Wins. They have given so much this week and poured out so much of themselves. I am honored I get to work with them.

The high point of my week, though? It was Tuesday. I was walking through the park – the scene of the crime, if you will – and the City Council had not yet met and our immediate future was far from certain.

And while I am walking across the park, my friend James came up to me.

I have known James for almost all of the more than six years I have been doing this work. After spending more than 12 years on the street, he is now housed and stable. But he is still loud and cranky. So when he hailed me down, I was not sure what to expect.

“Hugh. Man, It’s wrong what happened Saturday. All you was trying to do was feed some folks.”

I utter something appropriate, like, “Thanks.” By then, I was sorta tired of talking about it, to tell you the truth.

But James was not. He had more to say.

“Man, for six years, you have been out here feeding people. So today, I wanna feed you. So here you go.”

And he handed me a Jersey Mikes gift card, good for one free sandwich.  And then he turned on his heel and marched off.

Which was good. I have always hated to cry in front of people.

Hugh’s Statement To The Law & Public Safety Committee

Hugh’s statement to the Raleigh City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee on August 28, 2013.

A Good First Step

Love Wins and a few supporters depart on foot for the Raleigh Municipal Building today.

Love Wins and a few supporters depart on foot for the Raleigh Municipal Building today.

Love Wins Ministries is grateful for our supporters across the country and around the world. You have shared our posts, donated your time and money, and sent encouraging emails.

We are also thankful for the time and attention that Mayor McFarlane and the City Council gave to today’s meeting.

Today the Law and Public Safety Committee of Raleigh’s City Council listened to countless citizens explain why the current ordinance is not sustainable. The Committee did not object to a city manager’s recommendation to place a moratorium on the enforcement of the ordinance in question.

While this decision is not ideal for the long term, we do look forward to collaborating with Mayor McFarlane and the City Council to craft a sustainable solution that benefits all of Raleigh’s citizens.

Until that happens, we’re just happy that we get to share a meal with our friends in Moore Square.

Related Content: See photos of the meeting on Facebook and watch the video of Hugh’s statement to the Committee.

Raleigh’s Mayor McFarlane Disappointed Us Today

We were excited to receive a call from the producers at The State of Things, a show from our local NPR affiliate, to come on with the Mayor of Raleigh to discuss the recent kerfluffel.

(Disclosure – I personally am a Sustaining Donor at WUNC, which means I give $30 a month and am allegedly entered into all sorts of drawings. “Always support homeless ministries and NPR” is my motto.)

After all, I had a wonderful conversation with the Mayor on Sunday, the contents of which I promised her I would not disclose, and have not. I felt her to be a woman of honest goodwill who was as eager as we are to get to the bottom of what happened on Saturday, and why the sudden enforcement of a law that has not been enforced in years.

She spoke publicly to the crowd, promising that no one would be arrested for feeding people (yay!) and later retweeted statements to that effect. We saw this as a genuine move of the good faith by the Mayor, and we quickly sang her praises to our many supporters and followers across the country and around the world.

So I was sad when the producers from The State of Things called back to say that the Mayor was unable to make it, and would I still be interested in appearing? Sure thing. After all, she has a city to run, and I understand being busy.

But I felt something between hurt and anger today when the host of The State of Things mentioned, on air, that the Mayor had withdrawn from appearing when she learned that I would be on the air with her.

Really? What happened to her eagerness to work with us? What happened to the transparency she has promised in this process?

We have had no contact with the Mayor or the City Council members since the Mayor’s outreach to me on Sunday. Most assuredly they know how to get in touch with us – I have been cc’d on over 500 emails people to them from people around the world.

I like to think that were I them, I would see that maybe, just maybe, given the recent publicity, it would behoove me to reach out, to offer a cup of coffee to see if a) I had some ideas about what they could do to make things better and b) to de-escalate things.

But we have had zero contact from the City. And when I had the chance to sit next to her in a studio, the Mayor apparently withdrew. We hope this is no indication of her intent to withdraw her promise to not arrest people too.

On Wednesday the 28th at 3:00 p.m., there is an emergency meeting of the the Law and Public Safety Committee. It will be held in the City Council Chamber– they moved it from its regular location to a bigger room because of the “interest.”

I will be there. I hope you will be there. Maybe Mayor McFarlane will be there too.

Maybe you could call or email her and encourage her to meet with us, or at the least not cancel just because we are going to be in the same room at the same time.

Nancy.McFarlane@raleighnc.gov – (919)996-3050

The meeting will be held at 3:00 p.m. at:

Raleigh Municipal Building
222 West Hargett Street
Raleigh, NC 27601

View on Google Maps

Hope to see you (and the Mayor) there!