A tale of two cities …

… and their callousness.

Hugh Hollowell and other workers with “Love Wins” speak to a police officer who would not allow them to distribute food to the homeless. I was surprised, if not shocked, to learn that the city police in Raleigh, N. C., are now threatening to arrest persons who feed homeless people on the weekends. For more than six years, a terrific and caring group called Love Wins, led by Hugh Hollowell, have been providing breakfast biscuits and coffee for 70-80 homeless folk near Moore Square in downtown Raleigh. No other service provides food on the weekends.

The charitable group, working in partnership with volunteers from downtown churches, hasn’t been allowed to serve food in the square without an $800 permit per meal, but there was tacit permission to set up on a sidewalk across from the park, so long as they didn’t block the sidewalk and volunteers cleaned up.

I’ve delivered the biscuits and helped to serve them on Saturday mornings before. Love Wins has the operation down to a science. It doesn’t take long to pass out a hundred biscuits and show some love, and everything takes place before things get busy in town. 

But this week the police wouldn’t allow it. Following orders from someone up the chain, they threatened to arrest anyone who dared to hand a biscuit to a homeless person. Something’s rotten in Raleigh.

On the same day, I read that police in Columbia, S.C. have set up special patrols to look for homeless people who are loitering or breaking other “quality of life” laws in downtown Columbia, giving them a choice between going to jail or being shipped to a 240-bed homeless shelter on the outskirts of town, with a warning not to return.

More than 1,500 people live in Columbia, according to one estimate: a 240-bed shelter can’t hold them all. Is something rotten in Columbia, too?

Jesus taught thathowever we treat “the least of these” is what we do to him. In Raleigh and Columbia, it appears that Jesus isn’t being treated very well.

5 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for your concern about this issue, and about the people who we call friends.

  2. It will cost the city about $50 a day to incarcerate the feeders, plus the costs of pro(er)secution. I suggest about 150 volunteers show up next week and each hand out a biscuit and demand to be arrested or everyone be left alone. The officers on duty will FREAK. And it will put an end to the nonsense.

  3. Try handing the policemen (who are just doing their jobs) a hot Krispy Kreme with one hand and the homeless a biscuit with the other. Maybe the right hand will simply ignore what the left hand is doing.

  4. If this were not so heart breaking, it would be inhuman, tragic, ridiculous and evil. I was moved to prayers of thanksgiving to see Christianity alive and well in Raleigh. Feeding hungry people is what Jesus commanded his followers to do. To deny Christians from performing that act of kindness is…I don't know, AntiChrist? God bless the hungry and the ones who feed them. And God, help us to be more like the one we follow so timidly.

  5. There’s more to this than just the feeding of people—the homeless in this case—who would be fed by some agency, governmental or otherwise, anyhow. They probably are not starving. In my town, Lexington, Ky., (population 300,000), the “homeless” have for years taken over the attractive park adjacent to the main library at the anchor-corner of downtown…the usual, sleeping off drunks, littering everything, just hanging out and actually representing a physical threat to the most vulnerable. One can check the adjacent parking garage for defecations. Back in the 80s, I watched as Chattanooga, Tenn., built a brand-new library in downtown, which during the day was taken over on the inside by the “homeless,” who would feign reading something or other while sleeping. The stench and grit attached to the furniture was repugnant. They departed when the “Rescue Mission” was opened for the evening. In Lexington, there is a large shelter, where the homeless eat and sleep but must vacate during the day. My church has a feeding program and sets aside one night for those who want to bed down, all carried out by volunteers. The small park in Lexington is being renovated and it has been made plain that the usual loitering will not be allowed this time around. There’s a difference between Christian-caring and Christians being used. Having a park full of syringes, marijuana butts, and scary-looking people is not a “right” of the homeless. I know this is "heartless," but so be it.

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