Members from a Christian ministry in North Carolina were threatened with arrest this past weekend for giving out food to the needy, which police says goes against certain restrictions in Raleigh, NC.
In a blog post titled "Feeding Homeless Apparently Illegal in Raleigh, NC," the Rev. Hugh Hollowell, the pastor and director of Love Wins Ministries, explained that on Saturday, their partnering church brought 100 sausage biscuits and coffee that were supposed to be distributed to over 70 people in need that had lined up near a city park, but they were stopped by police.
"On that morning three officers from Raleigh Police Department prevented us from doing our work, for the first time ever. An officer said, quite bluntly, that if we attempted to distribute food, we would be arrested," the pastor wrote.
Jim Sughrue, a spokesman with the Police Department, shared with WTVD-TV that no arrests were made, explaining: "People were simply informed the ordinance prohibits the kinds of actions some groups have been engaged in at the park."
Hollowell wrote, however, that the ministry knew it could not use the park to distribute food, as that would require a permit, but for the past 6 years it had set up on the sidewalk without a problem, making sure it did not block people's way, and cleaned up after itself.
"No representative from the Raleigh Police Department was willing to tell us which ordinance we broke, or why, after six years and countless friendly and cooperative encounters with the Department, they are now preventing us from feeding hungry people," the pastor wrote.
"When I asked the officer why, he said that he was not going to debate me. 'I am just telling you what is. Now you pass out that food, you will go to jail.'"
Hollowell insisted that despite the setback, the ministry will continue feeding people, and linked to Matthew 25:31-46 in the Bible, where Jesus warns against ignoring needy people.
"We feed people and have been doing so, and much more, for six years. On the weekends people have no where else to go other than the park because Wake County and/or the City of Raleigh offers no soup kitchens or other options on the weekends. None. There is no 'official' place you can get a meal if you are homeless or at-risk of homelessness. You are left to your wits, and for the last six years, you could get a cup of hot coffee and a hot breakfast sandwich from us – because you could not get one from any tax funded location."
The pastor added that even if the city declares feeding hungry people to be illegal, it is still the right thing to do.
He called on supporters to call the City Council and voice their concerns, but to do so without anger or rudeness.
"Anger does not cast out fear – only love can do that," Hollowell concluded, and listed the contact information for a number of Council members that people can reach out to.