Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Woman's Feeding of Homeless Creates a Nuisance for City

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Woman's Feeding of Homeless Creates a Nuisance for City

Article excerpt

The baloney sandwiches and Twinkies are from God. Charlotte

Smith's emphatic about that.

She feeds the homeless in Confederate Park in southeast

Springfield. Leaning on her walker and with her mother by her

side, the 47-year-old Jacksonville woman gives each man and

woman lunch and a hearty "God bless you."

The homeless walk away peering into their paper bags, smiling.

City Hall and a Springfield neighborhood organization concede

Smith's mission is humanitarian, but they complain it's also

destroying the park, because people leave trash and human waste

behind. So city and neighborhood representatives have tried to

have Smith's mission moved away.

But making her budge has proven tough.

"We're trying to come to grips with this lady; a number of

agencies, including the General Counsel's Office, are trying to

deal with it," said John Curtin, director of the city's

Neighborhoods Department.

Several social service agencies, including the Salvation Army,

had been operating soup kitchens at the park.

But last year, the Springfield Preservation and Restoration

Association complained that the homeless people stayed and

littered the park after the soup kitchens packed up and left.

After months of negotiations, almost all the soup kitchens moved

to a Salvation Army site on West Adams Street.

But Charlotte Smith stayed.

"I'll stand here forever, because I've been called by God,"

Smith said yesterday after feeding about three dozen people.

"The city's trying to say there's been some agreement, but I

didn't sign any agreement," she said. "I'll stand strong. I'm

here every day, rain or shine, hot or cold. I'm doing the Lord's

work."

The I.M. Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless has offered her the

use of its kitchen, but Smith insists "a higher power than

anyone in this city" led her to Confederate Park.

Moving Smith away has been tricky, Curtin said, because she's

not serving from public land.

She operates on the border between the park and the adjacent

E.H. Thompson Co., a restaurant supplier. E.H. Thompson

officials said Smith's soup kitchen has been "no big deal. …

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