Statement by Gary Skinner, Executive Director of Catholic Charities

On August 24, members of a ministry serving the homeless in Moore Square in Raleigh were requested to halt their service that morning by Raleigh Police or face the threat of arrest. Currently, seven Raleigh area Catholic parishes have feeding programs at different times during the month in Moore Square.

The efforts of these parishes and many others are coordinated by Wake Area Mission Ministries (WAMM). Members of WAMM are aware of challenges in feeding the homeless in this area and have been meeting regularly for two years to identify some alternate, responsible, and coordinated options.

Catholic Charities Raleigh Regional Director Rick Miller-Haraway as well as many local Catholic parishioners were in attendance at the City Law and Public Safety Committee Meeting on Wednesday, August 28. Mr. Miller-Haraway and members of four parishes spoke before the Council, stressing the Catholic Church’s commitment to feeding the hungry in our community both through the many parishes providing food at Moore Square on weekends and through Catholic Parish Outreach food pantry.

Last month, Catholic Parish Outreach, which distributes a week’s worth of groceries to families when they come for food, distributed food to a record number of 12,253 people. This was a 20 percent increase over June 2013. Additionally, he stated that poverty has grown exponentially in our community in the past few years, as shown by the growth in those served: Catholic Parish Outreach served an average of 4,600 people per month in 2007.

Those who spoke on Wednesday stressed that threatening arrests is not a solution to the issue. Instead they called for the City and all involved to work together to make decisions based on the principle of human dignity. Catholic Charities supports the effort of WAMM and others for the continuation of this dialogue with the City of Raleigh. Catholic Charities will continue to support our parishes, WAMM, and others to reach a solution which will be best for the City of Raleigh, the parks department, local businesses, and the homeless.

Catholic Charities is grateful to the City of Raleigh for its $45,000 per year commitment to Catholic Charities’ Support Circle Program for Homeless Families and its long term support of the Raleigh Wake Partnership to End and Prevent Homelessness. Catholic Charities is also thankful for the efforts of parishes and other faith groups who are engaged in the feeding of the homeless in our community.

Through this thoughtful and well-intentioned dialogue, Catholic Charities is confident that an appropriate and compassionate solution can be found.