Wake County

Raleigh approves site for Oak City Outreach Center

The Oak City Outreach Center is expected to move from its spot behind the old Salvation Army building near Moore Square to 1430 S. Wilmington St. in Raleigh.
The Oak City Outreach Center is expected to move from its spot behind the old Salvation Army building near Moore Square to 1430 S. Wilmington St. in Raleigh. miszler@newsobserver.com

The Oak City Outreach Center, which provides meals and other resources to the homeless, will likely move into a permanent location.

The Raleigh City Council on Tuesday agreed to spend more than $3 million for a building at 1430 S. Wilmington St. to house the center. The site is less than two miles south of the center’s temporary location behind the old Salvation Army building near Moore Square.

A crowd of more than 40 supporters cheered and gave a standing ovation at the council meeting Tuesday.

“I’m still in shock,” said Shana Overdorf, executive director at the Raleigh/Wake Partnership to End and Prevent Homelessness. “This site is critical for us.”

The project is a partnership between Raleigh, Wake County, the Raleigh/Wake Partnership to End and Prevent Homelessness and Catholic Charities, which will operate and manage the site.

Before the deal is finalized, the Wake County Board of Commissioners must consider the site in January and then work with city leaders to determine when construction will begin and when the center will open its doors.

Overdorf said the new location will allow people to take showers, do laundry and eat meals. The “heart and soul” of the center, she said, will be an intake and assessment process that will evaluate each person’s needs to determine how best to help.

The council’s decision comes three years after charities said they were threatened with arrest for handing out food to the homeless in Moore Square. Raleigh police had begun enforcing a rule requiring permits to distribute food in city parks.

City officials said at the time the enforcement was spurred by complaints of litter and crime in Moore Square.

The issue, dubbed “Biscuitgate,” made national news, and the city council held a series of community meetings. Some business owners said they didn’t want charity groups to set up downtown, but the groups said leaving downtown would make it harder to serve those in need.

In 2014, the Oak City Outreach Center opened in its temporary location as a short-term solution. Open on weekends, the city-owned center works with more than 40 community groups and churches to provide meals, hygiene kits and other resources for the homeless.

The center serves between 300 and 400 men, women and children every weekend, according to its website. Since opening, it has served more than 180,000 meals.

The new building on Wilmington Street sits next to a homeless shelter off of Keeter Center Drive.

“We’re delighted,” said Hugh Hollowell, director of Love Wins Ministries, which provides support to the homeless. “We’re excited that it happened. The fact that the vote was unanimous really speaks to how the council views the most vulnerable. It shows that Raleigh is a city of compassion.”

Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; @madisoniszler

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