Sign our Change.org petition here: http://chng.it/B7bRKzZrMy
Signing this petition will show Florence City Leaders (the Mayor, City Council Members, and Zoning Board Members) that you see Room at the Table as a valuable asset to our community and feel that we have the right be have access to our new space. Our goal is to attain 1500 signatures before our appeal hearing on January 9th.
We believe that every single community member that believes in Room at the Table and our mission should have a voice in telling the City of Florence why they think Room at the Table should be allowed to stay in the space we have leased in the Seven Points area.
For those of you that don’t know the entire story, Room at the Table began downtown under a temporary lease agreement at a church where feeding hungry families had been operating for the last 10 years. However, the plan from the beginning was to find and lease our own space. We knew we must choose our location very carefully, so that the hungry families and elderly guests who have limited mobility could still get to the new location. We knew it had to be no further than a 5-mile radius from where many of our guests currently live, as well as close enough to UNA, where the students that eat with us could easily get to.
During the fall, we were told by the Mayor and City Council members that they didn’t want us in the downtown area. They have been under the erroneous impression that this meal primarily serves the homeless population and did not like the optics of having this located in the downtown area. However, of the 100+ guests that eat at Room at the Table only about 15% of our guests are homeless. So even though our volunteers know this is not a meal only for the homeless community, we looked for a location that would meet the needs of those that we serve, as well as placate the City’s request to not be located downtown. After much searching, we found a location in the 7 Points Area, which previously operated as an event center, that we believed would be perfect to meet the needs of those that we serve.
After leasing the space in November, we applied for utilities to be turned on so that we could determine what would need to be done to get the space ready by the first of the year to continue serving those who are hungry with as little delay as possible. The City’s Building Official contacted us immediately after we signed our lease to tell us he didn’t think this location “would work”. The City then refused to turn on our utilities because this City Official determined that how Room at the Table operates does not fit into his own interpretation of the current B-2 Zoning Code. He also stated that there was no other location in the City of Florence that he would approve us moving to, due to his interpretation of the code.
After researching other approved Event Center spaces, we feel that this determination is incorrect and have filed an appeal of his decision. We have already spent a few thousand dollars leasing this space and as a privately funded, local non-profit, we can’t afford to waste any more money, so we have no choice but to fight for our right to be located at our chosen space.
Every day that this issue is dragged out and we are unable to get into a space is another day that we are not able to feed hungry people in our community. Over 100 people, including many families with young children have come to count on Room at the Table for food. It is absolutely crucial that we are able to go back to serving our guests as quickly as possible. Our mission at Room at the Table is to serve anyone with dignity and care and to build a sense of community that is about “we”, not “them or us”. To that end, we do not wish to be at odds with our City or City Leaders; we simply want to find an acceptable location that allows us to serve the hungry in the Shoals.
Thank you for your support by signing this petition. We also welcome your attendance at the appeal hearing on January 9th.