A nondenominational Christian group that Olympia police asked to stop feeding street people in a city parking lot will hold its street feed anyway Thursday, its founder says.
Ben Charles, founder of Crazy Faith Ministries, said the feed will go on after he and the city could not come to a resolution at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. Volunteers will start setting up at 6 p.m. Thursday, and the meal begins at 6:30 p.m. in a city-owned parking lot southeast of State Avenue and Washington Street.
“Some people may look at it all sorts of different ways, but I think everybody has a right to a meal and love and hope,” he said.
Charles and other volunteers have fed hundreds of people each week on Thursdays and Saturdays, something they’ve been doing full-time for two years. The city has allowed the group to use the parking lot.
But last week the city Police Department told the group to stop using the site after receiving complaints including “blocking vehicle traffic and parking,” “garbage and debris being left behind after your event,” “food handling safety,” and “participant and public safety,” according to an email to Charles from Olympia Police Lt. Paul Lower.
Tom Hill, the city’s chief inspector and building official, said the city won’t try to stop the feed. He said police will be present only to keep the peace. He said the city is considering rules that would govern groups that want to use city parking lots.
Charles brought a crowd of people to the Olympia City Council meeting Tuesday night and appealed to the council to allow the feeds to continue.
“Where do they intend to chase us?” asked Erin Miller. “There are nowhere near enough shelter spaces for us all.”
Randy Morlan of Euphorium Salon & Spa on Fourth Avenue said he empathizes with the homeless, but the street feed is in the wrong location. He said he’s lost 20 percent of his business in the past five years because customers are “hounded by panhandlers.”
Council members didn’t take any action on the matter Tuesday. City Manager Steve Hall said the site for the feed is unsafe because people are darting across State Avenue and intimidating people.
“Finally, we came to the conclusion that we can’t make it work,” Hall said.Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 mbatcheldor@ theolympian.com @MattBatcheldor