Raleigh’s city council approved a recommendation by the council’s Law and Public Safety Committee to open an indoor temporary food distribution facility across the street from Moore Square Park at a meeting this afternoon.

Other short term goals connected with the project include establishing care points for people in need around the city, implementing an educational awareness campaign and allowing food distribution to continue at Moore Square until the facility opens. The city will partner with Wake county on a ten-year plan to end homelessness; the first step of the long-term process will be to identify within six months a “one-stop shop for individuals and families at risk of homelessness” needing comprehensive services.

Councillor Mary Ann Baldwin, chair of the Committee, requested a transfer of $118,000 “to retrofit and prepare the former Salvation Army warehouse space for the temporary food distribution location.” She also asked board members of the Raleigh non-profit City of Oaks Foundation to contribute to the food distribution facility.

Baldwin emphasized the importance of the six-month timeline on a proposal for the long-term solution, known as “Strategy B,” after Councillor John Odom said the city, which owns the warehouse, will want to make the space available for development as soon as possible.

Dana Youst, community oriented-government coordinator for the city of Raleigh, said that because the city purchased the warehouse for development there is no exact time commitment, just that the facility could be a temporary solution for between two and five years.

Here is the story the INDY ran last Tuesday:

The Raleigh city council’s Law and Public Safety Committee approved plans to use a warehouse near Moore Square Park as a short-term food distribution location, while city and county staff work on a long-term plan to end homelessness.

Dana Youst, community-oriented government coordinator for the city of Raleigh, presented plans to use a 3,200-square-foot facility at 215 S. Person St. to the committee this afternoon, to serve as a site where community volunteers and faith-based groups can provide food to Raleigh’s homeless population on weekends. The proposal was supported unanimously by a task-force charged with finding food distribution alternatives at an October 22 meeting.

City staff budget estimates for the temporary facility are $111,000 to get the site up and running, and a cost of $58,000 per year to keep it open. Youst also proposed implementing a public awareness and education campaign, and the creation of a printed resource guide, at a further cost of $7,000.

Assistant city manager Dan Howe said that while the county has declined to participate financially in the short-term, they are supportive of the idea of the facility and county commissioners are committed to ending homelessness in the long term.

Youst says she hopes the city and community members with an interest in caring for Raleigh’s homeless residents will donate time, money and resources to the project, which she says will be ready by late spring.

“We were hesitant to work on donations until we got approval (from the city council),” Youst said. “Hopefully we will start to see partnerships in the community step up to donate. We wanted to make sure the committee was ok with this first.”

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; the site would be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Howe said city staff is working with Raleigh police to drive down security costs and the budget presented is “the worst case budget scenario.” He said the facility is a three to five year, temporary solution because the city—which owns the warehouse— will want to capitalize on the original investment it made in buying the building, and because of the significant investment the city has made in Moore Square Park.

“We will have a budget recommendation for you if you choose to go forward with this proposal,” Howe told committee members.

The ten-year plan to end homelessness centers around a “one-stop-shop” location for homeless people and families that the Wake-Raleigh Partnership to End Homelessness— a city/county alliance—is working on.

The Rev. Hugh Hollowell, whose August blog post criticizing Raleigh police for threatening to arrest him and members of Love Wins ministry when they were distributing food in Moore Square Park, called the proposal a “positive first step.”

“The real story is not about food,” Hollowell said. “It’s a story about whether the needs of a Raleigh citizen who lives outside are as important as the needs of a citizen who lives inside. I want Raleigh to be a hospitable place for all my parishioners, as I know it can be.”