RALEIGH, N.C. — A church group is left to wonder if feeding the homeless is illegal in Raleigh.
WTVD-TV reported that volunteers from Love Wins Ministries have been feeding the homeless in downtown Raleigh for the past six years, until this weekend.
When they showed up at Moore Square on Saturday morning, they said they were greeted by Raleigh police officers.
The group wrote on their blog that the officers told them if they distributed any food to the nearly 70 people waiting they’d be arrested.
“Today, officers from Raleigh Police Department prevented us from doing our work, for the first time ever,” the blog reads. “An officer said, quite bluntly, that if we attempted to distribute food, we would be arrested.”
The volunteers said the 100 sausage biscuits and gallons of coffee they brought went uneaten because they feared being arrested.
The group said they have had a good relationship with the Raleigh Police Department in the past.
The distribution of food in any of the city’s parks is prohibited because of a city ordinance.
Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue told WTVD-TV that no arrests were made Saturday in connection with the feeding activity.
“People were simply informed the ordinance prohibits the kinds of actions some groups have been engaged in at the park,” Sughrue said. “Work is ongoing with those involved, some of whom are developing alternative sites, etc.”
Love Ministries’ Rev. Hugh Hollowell said if the group were to get a permit to distribute the food it would cost $800 each day.
The group has asked for help from the public in finding a private building or parking lot downtown that they can use to feed the hungry. Other groups have planned to protest.
Love Ministries said it did not organize the event and they just want to feed the homeless.
Mayor Nancy McFarlane said Sunday a city council committee will address the situation this week. McFarlane said neither she nor the council were involved in the decision to stop the meals.
It wasn’t immediately clear Sunday how long the ordinance has been in place or why it hasn’t been enforced.