Sharing and Caring Hands restaurant license potentially revoked

Amelia Raether

After 23 years of serving the impoverished and the homeless of Minneapolis, Sharing and Caring Hands is facing a threat by the city to take away its restaurant license and ability to serve meals to the poor. The city places blame on the shelter’s lack of adequate security around Mary’s Place, as the area has increasingly been used for drug dealing.

“I feel that our work is God’s work—there is no good reason for the city to do this,” said founder Mary Jo Copeland. “It’s sad that they would even think about it, because there are so many people that just need to have a meal; it’s not right to take that away.”

Sharing and Caring Hands provides 4,000 meals per week, supplies food shelves, offers financial help, transitional housing, and helps the poor and needy in many other ways as well. Citing these great deeds and benefits to the poor in Minneapolis, many supporters protested in downtown Minneapolis on April 17 against the unfairness of restricting Mary’s Place from serving food to the poor.

While the city states the main reason is lack of crime control, many believe that the city’s sudden interest is an attempt to shut down Mary’s Place or force its move as the new Twins ballpark is being built across the street.

However, the city does present a credible and accurate case. Over the past three years, the shelter has created more than 400 calls to the police department.

The city’s licensing department sent the shelter’s founder, Mary Jo Copeland, a letter asking her to take part in a license settlement conference. The city presented many examples of increased drug use in the area and even documented many occasions on which undercover cops have bought drugs in the shelter.

But Sharing and Caring Hands assures the city it is doing everything it can to crack down on this crime. The shelter has three security officials, and Mary’s Place only has authority over the area on their property. The city’s Garage and Public Works Department, located next to Sharing and Caring Hands, has never monitored illegal activity around the area, despite being asked to.

Mary’s Place is asking for public support to keep the shelter’s food program open by appealing to the government or representatives individually. “There are more than one thousand people coming for meals each week, not to mention the children who need so much more than just food.”

amelia raether, staff writer