[Hpn] STORE STOPS MEALS FOR HOMELESS

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Tue, 19 Jul 2005 04:02:48 -0400


Store stops meals for homeless

By Andrea J. Cook, Journal Staff Writer

July 18 2005

RAPID CITY - For five years, volunteers with Food Not Bombs have pulled
their cars through Prairie Market's parking lot to serve bowls of hot soup
to homeless people behind the store, but last week, they were told to stay
off the property.

"They basically said they don't want us there anymore," volunteer Ashley
Heacock said in a telephone interview last week.
As the lead volunteer for Food Not Bombs for the past year, Heacock has
coordinated the preparation and serving of a simple vegetarian meal of soup
and bread. She has fed as many as 30 people a day from a card table at the
southeast corner of Prairie Market not far from Rapid Creek, north of the
East Boulevard bridge.

Last Wednesday, Heacock was told to move her car and stay off Prairie
Market's property in the future.

Local officials at Prairie Market referred all calls to Nash Finch
headquarters in Minneapolis where calls were not returned.

Heacock said the site behind Prairie Market was selected because it's a
central spot that people pass on their way from North Rapid to Cornerstone
Rescue Mission or other sites downtown.

In June, Heacock and Food Not Bombs Rapid City founder Peter Curtis were
invited to the Weed and Seed office to discuss concerns raised by businesses
and residents in the area about the feeding program.

Capt. Steve Allender with the Rapid City Police Department's Patrol Division
attended the meeting with Richard Cooper, a volunteer with the Weed and Seed
program and representatives from businesses along East Boulevard. Weed and
Seed is a program aimed at rehabilitating neighborhoods with high crime
rates and social problems.

Allender said Food Not Bombs' twice weekly meals create additional problems
in an area people are trying to improve. There also have been efforts to
reduce the concentration of homeless people gathering in the area, he said.

On the days Heacock's group serves food, there is an increase in police
calls to the area, Allender said.

"I've talked with business owners who believe they'll have to move from the
East Boulevard area because they can no longer tolerate the transient people
in that area," Allender said.

The free meal is just another straw on the pile, he said.

Cooper said he met with Heacock to see if they could reach an understanding.
He praised her commitment to her program but said that she didn't understand
what Weed and Seed and the North Rapid Civic Association are trying to
accomplish.

"We're spending a lot of time trying to clean up that area," he said.
"They're going against what we're trying to do. We wanted to tell our side
of the story. There are plenty of places in Rapid City for people who need a
free meal to find one," Cooper said.

Heacock sets up only two blocks from Cornerstone Rescue Mission, Allender
added.

"Basically, the only rule there is you have to be sober and not disrupt
things," he said.

For now, Heacock said Food Not Bombs volunteers will try parking on other
property and carrying their supplies to their corner of the park.

"It's frustrating," she said. "We're not bringing people there. We're there
because they're there."

Cooper and Allender both said they had looked at Food Not Bombs Web sites
and have questions about the organization's purposes.

If they had continued their investigations of Food Not Bombs links, they
would have found one to the U.S. Department of Justice because Food Not
Bombs claims that Weed and Seed is a tool being used to stop the
organization's peaceful goals of feeding the hungry. Weed and Seed is funded
in part by the Justice Department.

"I don't see how they can blame us for all the things that are happening
when we're there," Heacock said. "All I want to do is show these people that
somebody actually cares."

Contact Andrea Cook at 394-8423 or  andrea.cook@rapidcityjournal.com



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