Greetings and Salutatons;
This Sunday morning, I read an article about how the “Love Wins Ministry” was prevented by the LEOs from distributing free food to the homeless and needy in your city. Here is the link to that story: http://lovewins.info/2013/08/feeding-homeless-apparently-illegal-in-raleigh-nc/
I am registering a protest against this action, and support the ministry’s actions completely.
There are several reasons for this decision:
1) As a follower of Christ, I follow His lead in this matter – and his teachings were that we, who are more fortunate, are to help the disadvantaged whenever possible.
2) I have a general objection to the thought that in America, where we throw away more food in a year than many other countries would need to feed their entire population, there are people who remain food insecure. How in the world does anyone expect a person down on their luck to be able to climb out of that hole when they are preoccupied by trying not to starve to death.
3) There was a mention of a “revitalization” of the city bouncing around in your minds. While it is a wonderful goal, and if we have to have cities, we want them to be as nice as possible, it is a bad idea if you are going to build it on the bodies and misery of the homeless trapped in it. If you think that an artificial limit on how they can get food will have any positive effects, I fear you are doomed to disappointment. They will not leave, they will not vanish, and, I suspect that if you use draconian methods like this to try and make the problem go away, all you will see is an increase in property crime, and, in the number of homeless, desperate folks standing by the road with cardboard signs begging for food.
4) From the article I read, the Ministry folks were treated with terrible disrespect by the LEOs that prevented the food distribution. For the police to arrogantly tell them that (a) they were going to jail if they handed out the food, and (b) to refuse to quote what laws they were breaking indicates to me that there was no legal basis for harassing these people and their clients. I am not a lawyer, but I have enough age and experience in local politics to feel that I am quite correct in pointing out that this is the sort of police tactic that exposes the city to some serious liability. If, for example, the LEOs had arrested some or all of the Ministry folks, this would have gone to court, and unless the charges were very well documented and not the usual mish-mash of serious-sounding, but hollow charges that the LEO community uses to annoy citizens, the case would bring nothing but acquittal for the defendants and, loads of bad publicity for the city. Think for a minute – How would you like Rachael Maddow or Anderson Cooper to feature Raleigh on their programs, in the “worst thing in the world” or “Ridculist” segments?
That having been said – Let me offer you some suggestions on how to fix the problem and make this a winnable situation. I gather from the article that there are no places in the city, where people in need of food can go for a hot meal on the weekends. This Ministry was created to deal with that need, so, the simplest way to deal with the situation is to re-open the soup kitchens and shelters on the weekend. I am sure the Ministry folks who now take food out into the world would be happy enough to support this effort with volunteer labor, if the expense seems too much.
Alternatively, reconsider the licensing structure and costs as regards public areas. While $800/day is probably quite reasonable for using the park for an entire day, it is far out of line for the short time that the Ministry folks would be there distributing food. After all, considering the demand and supply available, I suspect that the food is all gone within half an hour of their opening up shop. So, either pro-rate the licensing costs, or create a free license with restrictions, so the Ministry can come in, do its work, and leave without hassles. Now, as a part of this, if there is going to be a conflicting event there that the City knows about…make it a point to communicate with the Ministry folks, so they can have their distribution set up elsewhere, or far enough out of the way that it will not conflict with the other event(s).
I would also strongly suggest that your police department be reminded that they are not warders in a prison, and, the people they were threatening were not prisoners under their control. The fact of the matter is that, even in these chaotic days, the police force is a servant of the citizens. They are hired to keep the peace by ensuring that crimes against citizens end up with the criminal being tracked down, arrested and put into the Justice system. Law is the basic structure of our society, so an accurate and objective police force to enforce those laws is a vital part of that society. If the police err in their enforcement of the law, it should be on the merciful side. For example, in the quoted example, it would have been more appropriate for the LEOs to say to the Ministry folks “This statute says that you are no longer allowed to distribute food here. Go ahead and give out what you have today, but, do not do it again. The NEXT time you will be arrested for <list of excuses for cracking down on the folks>” Obviously, this was not the course that was taken.
I could go on, but, I believe this makes my point.