From the Editor

Drescher: The case for handing out biscuits to the poor

jdrescher@newsobserver.comDecember 6, 2013 

See video of Marc Segre as he talks with News & Observer editor John Drescher about creating relationships with people in need by handing out biscuits Saturday mornings in Moore Square in Raleigh, NC.

NEWSOBSERVERTUBE

Marc Segre believes in the power of a biscuit – not so much for its nutritional value but for the relationship it helps him build.

Segre, 57, is an IBM engineer and a member of Soapstone United Methodist Church in Raleigh. He’s also active in working with the homeless and indigent.

He volunteers with Love Wins Ministries, which has received attention recently for its work in distributing food to hungry people at Moore Square on the east side of downtown.

In August, Raleigh police told Love Wins that officers would enforce a city ordinance banning distribution of food in Raleigh parks without a permit. Dozens of speakers then complained to the Raleigh City Council. The council this week agreed to improve a city-owned warehouse near Moore Square and host charity distributions each weekend.

In a recent column, I questioned whether giving away biscuits was an effective strategy to help the poor. I mentioned the 2011 book “Toxic Charity,” which says: “When we do for those in need what they have the capacity to do for themselves, we disempower them.”

Segre objected to my column, saying I didn’t make an effort to learn about Love Wins and what it does. (We published a story about Love Wins in September, “Flap brings tiny ministry fame,” which you can read at bit.ly/1coMCMi.)

Segre says Love Wins is about more than handing out biscuits on Saturday mornings. The biscuits, he says, are a way to get to know people. “The first step is creating the relationship,” Segre told me this week.

Four churches work with Love Wins to distribute food on weekends. As they do so, they invite people to visit Love Wins’ small facility on West Jones Street on the edge of downtown.

The building is a former house that’s open five days a week. Sometimes a social worker is there. People can have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, do some laundry, make a phone call, use the computers, take a nap. When I dropped by this week, visitors did all of those things as they talked with one another. It was its own community, a hangout for people with no place else.

Segre enjoys that community. “Most of them are just regular people, just like you and me, except more interesting,” he said. He wore a T-shirt that said, “STOP HOBOPHOBIA.”

Segre also volunteers with two other groups that serve the homeless. He’s aware of the good work done by groups that prepare people for employment or bring stability to their chaotic lives, such as StepUp Ministry and the Healing Place.

Many of the people served by Love Wins aren’t eligible for other programs. They aren’t stable enough or cannot follow rules, Segre said. They are, he said, the people most of us don’t look at when we walk down the street.

While regular employment might be achievable for a client at StepUp Ministry, Segre says that’s not a realistic goal for many of the people he meets through Love Wins. “Success is meeting them where they’re at,” he said. For him, that means starting a relationship by handing out a biscuit.

Meet the columnists

Rob Christensen, political columnist, and Barry Saunders, local columnist, will appear at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh’s Ridgewood Shopping Center at 7:30 p.m. Monday. They will talk about some of their favorite columns and answer your questions. I will moderate. We hope you can drop by.

Drescher: 919-829-4515 or jdrescher@newsobserver.com; Twitter: @john_drescher

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