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Room at the Table non-profit files lawsuit against city of Florence

The city won’t let the organization operate out of its North Wood Avenue location.

Posted: Feb 4, 2020 10:54 AM
Updated: Feb 4, 2020 8:14 PM

Room at the Table, a non-profit organization, has filed a lawsuit against the city of Florence.

The city won’t let the organization operate out of its North Wood Avenue location. The non-profit had been operating out of a church for about a year, feeding almost 100 people a day for free. Its goal was to have its own space one day and that's when it started leasing a building on North Wood Avenue.

The city rejected the organization’s request to use it as an event center in a 4-1 decision in January. A building official denied the initial application because he determined "the proposed use of the property does not meet the description of an event center.”

Now, the organization is asking for a trial by jury in order to repeal the city’s decision.

"We're not asking for money. We're not asking for damages. We just want to be able to operate," said Krista Manchester, she's one of the directors over Room at the Table. "We've asked for a jury simply because this is an issue that involves the public. We met multiple times with city officials before we filed this lawsuit looking and hoping for an answer. We didn't get one so we felt like we had no choice."

Some people at the January meeting said they feared the non-profit would bring in more homelessness to the seven points area of Florence by serving a free daily hot meal, but Yolanda Johnson said she doesn't see it like that.

"I usually go there and eat with the community and see people I haven't seen and witness to people there and encourage them so I was really saddened by that," said Yolanda Johnson.

Johnson said she's a little surprised to hear about the non-profits lawsuit against the city. She hoped the two could work things out instead of going the legal route.

"If it takes that then I say go ahead and do it because the city knows better and the city needs to come on and get with it," said Johnson.

WAAY31 reached out to city officials at the mayors office and they said since it's now a legal matter they cannot comment.

Starting February 13th Room at the Table will start serving hot meals twice a week out of Trinity Episcopal Church located at 410 North Pine Street. After February 13th the meals will be served every Monday and Thursday by volunteers with Room at the Table.

The city has about 20 days to respond to the lawsuit.

Read previous stories on this here and here.

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