by Jane Porter
Raleigh city staff members have identified a location near Moore Square Park that could serve as a temporary food distribution site for groups to use while the city works out a long-term solution to end homelessness.
The 3,200-square-foot, city-owned warehouse, at 215 S. Person St., about two blocks from Moore Square, has entry points on both Person and Martin streets.
Community-oriented Government Coordinator Dana Youst introduced the prospective location as a possibility Tuesday evening, at the beginning of the third meeting of a Raleigh task force charged with finding alternatives to food distribution in Moore Square Park.
She said the site will be run as a partnership between the City, Wake County, nonprofit and faith-based organizations, and other groups that distribute food.
The site meets the priorities that had been recommended by task force members, including its proximity to Moore Square, availability of bathrooms and hand-washing stations, and shelter, sanitation and safety concerns that have arisen with food distribution activities in the past.
There is a large garage opening to the warehouse where food distributors can pull in and set up. The space inside is wide open, and a nearby parking lot could also be used for food distribution on nice days.
Assistant City Manager Dan Howe said the proposal, which was unanimously approved by the task force members present, could go before the City Council on Dec. 5, and the site could be in use by late winter or early spring of next year.
The facility will need some renovating first, however, and city leaders called on the ministry workers and the business owners on the task force to pitch in on that effort.
“We want to do this together,” said Youst. “It’s not just the government’s responsibility, but it’s the community’s responsibility. It will only work if we all engage together, and have clean-up days and painting days. We all have to be there together.”
Howe said it is unlikely that the site could become permanent because the city bought the warehouse as an investment and does intend to develop it at some point, but probably not before Moore Square has been renovated.
“They won’t get to it for two to three years,” Howe said. “It’s a temporary solution for at least two to three years, we guarantee, and there’s a good chance it will be four to five years.”
If City Council approves the site, it will be open Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and various groups could to coordinate times to distribute food.
The city will provide tables, chairs, picnic tables, refrigerators, planters, paint and security.
Howe said he is optimistic about the site functioning as a “one-stop-shop” for homeless residents. He said it is likely city council will approve the idea.
“For them to say 'no' would send a bad message to the community,” he said.
Groups can to continue to distribute food in Moore Square Park until the site is operating; Howe emphasized the ongoing need for discussion around a long-term solution.
The task force will present the site recommendation to the city council’s Law and Public Safety committee Nov. 26.
Find out more about the location here:See related PDF