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

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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 be 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 in 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

Hugh Hollowell

About Hugh Hollowell

Hugh Hollowell is a minister in the Mennonite Church USA and based in Raleigh, N.C. He is the founder and director of Love Wins Ministries, which tackles the problems of homelessness by focusing on relationships, not outcomes. He likes peanut M&Ms.
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15 Responses to Out Of Control: City Says Sharing Food In Moore Square Is Harmful

  1. Elena Margo Gould says:

    I can’t help but wonder at the uproar Jesus caused by the crowds he drew, taught, and fed. You must be doing something right! :)

  2. Edna Reynolds says:

    You can be assured that I will be composing a letter that will go out to each of the city leaders you have mentioned and that it will be put in the strongest possible way that this is completely reprehensible and unconscionable! This is way for our capital city to be run and it must stop…….NOW! As the lady above puts it, “you must be doing something right!”

    Christ’s blessings on you and your whole team!

  3. Edna Reynolds says:

    Addendum: that should read “this is NO way…………………”

  4. Susan Long says:

    I am so embarrassed by what I am reading and hearing.. it hurts me inside so deeply. Feeding the poor is a bad thing? In a park paid by public funds? Who are they to say this? Its not like its an all day buffet! I don’t see people setting up tents throwing trash all over the place. I see concerned people filling a great need in our community. Shame on the City of Raleigh and The Raleigh Police Department. Their silence shows their guilt!

  5. Jill says:

    The City does seem to be struggling with this entire situation. At the Task Force meeting on Monday, they were not able to articulate exactly what the problems were that the Task Force was supposed to solve or where precisely the complaints about the food distribution originated from. In the city’s defense, I’m sure all of this has hit them out of the blue and they are scrambling to understand and reconcile all of the information internally before releasing it to the public. However, if sanitation is the problem, I don’t understand why the City needs a Task Force to tell them to put out more trash cans. And if the complaints were from “concerned residents and business owners”, where are these people now? The Task Force is composed almost entirely of outreach groups; “concerned citizens and business owners” don’t seem to be too concerned now. I remain hopeful that the City is just taking time understand and assess the situation but I have my doubts. The City has already asked the Task Force members to be cut in half and to change the dates of the meetings; even the final date of presentation of the recommendations to the City Council seems to be flexible. I would say that the City is not taking the situation nearly as seriously as they should given the stakes (aka, people going hungry).

  6. Moore Square Neighbor says:

    Hello, I am one of the “concerned citizens” that has complained about the state of Moore Square. The last meeting was targeted to the charity groups – residents in the Moore Sqaure area were not invited to attend. So that there is no misunderstanding, I must make it clear that the “concerned citizens and business owners” are actively working to reduce the crime and sanitation issues in Moore Square, as they have been for several years. We will continue to contact our city leaders and voice our opinions to all that will listen until Moore Square is given the same respect as any other state park in North Carolina.

  7. "LOve" says:

    Pastor Hugh -

    The expression “@#*! rolls downhill’ applies here. Republicans are in control of the State of North Carolina; which is to say that the needs of the poor, and disenfranchised are perceived as harmful to the ‘growth’ and ‘security’ of
    the City of Raleigh. My prayers are with you. “LOve”

  8. Connie B, Washburn says:

    This is the most insane and embarrassing thing I have ever heard of that the law says is out of control…..maybe they have always had enough food, but they need to get real and go stay with these people about a week and eat, what, if anything, they have or can afford.

  9. Helen Mylen says:

    Why not bypass the city officials by moving the feeding to a church parking lot?

  10. Joshua Burton says:

    Hey Hugh,

    The tough thing with an article like this that takes some point in time emails is it frames those statements as the opinion for the entire City of Raleigh (city staff and police) and also does not allow for their to have been learning to have occurred.

    I would assume, maybe wrongfully so, that there may have been some learning and a willingness to revisit the situation at this point?

    I would strongly encourage a follow up article if there are signs of willingness to work together and learn. Otherwise this paints those city staff and officials as forever closeminded. All too often the solution in modern America is to crucify public servants, and if there is a willingness to learn and grow with public input, there should be as much attention placed on the positive outcomes and learning as the original offense.

  11. Rick Goldman says:

    Where someone would look at the efforts of Love Wins with pride and say “This is our community helping those in need,” Others will look with disdain.
    I choose compassion. I hope you will too…

  12. Paul Asbell says:

    I don’t live in NC… but I visit your state often, have many friends there, and am very fond of many of the things which North Carolinians are justly proud. That said, it’s so disturbing to read of this– and similar– issues now going on in your state.
    From afar, it certainly looks like state and local government figures are fond of cloaking themselves in so-called “Christian” values when legislating, while ignoring Christ’s message completely when it comes time to addressing the plight of “the least of these”.
    My sincere respect and appreciation for the work you’re doing, LWM!

  13. Pingback: Plot by City Officials to Shut Down Christian Food Program for Homeless Revealed » ZIONICA.com

  14. anon says:

    Whew I absolutely adore raleigh. Was resident almost 12 years. Come to charlotte see lot homeless here. I was so upset by this. Ha! Man I told my aunt ways up with Nazism. They say oh you can street preach to but ten they make everything difficult when it legal do so. Maybe their food needs taken away and them be without then no how feels. These poor people go down under steeple can anybody hear them or does anybody even know they are go down today under shadow of steeple. Don’t worry Lord will deal with those hard hearted people bully homeless. One day they be without and see how feels to bully this poor ministry. In fact go type in google there lawsuit against some cops in raleigh for beating up prisoners in areas where they knew cameras wouldn’t see. May Lord expose corruption and show their naked greed and callousness. I’m so sorry what embarrassment.

  15. anon says:

    http://www.wral.com/lawsuit-8-inmates-beaten-at-nc-central-prison/12432472/ here you go. Cops beat up prisoners where cameras weren’t show it. So much corruption. I’ve read other stories. So sad you all can’t hide this. I’m so sorry for all hurt they put you all thru.

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