MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Martinsburg City Council on Thursday voted down extending a permit for Sanctified Street Ministries to allow them to continue feeding the homeless downtown.

It’s a complicated issue, as City Councilwoman Kimberly Nelson explained to the Panhandle News Network’s Clint Gaige.

Nelson explained the town square is a “jewel” that attracts visitors to the city and is the first impression for those visiting Martinsburg.

She said there has been a problem when the feeding program draws those downtown who don’t respect the property of others.  She said she wants visitors downtown to feel safe, as well.

Nelson said she has a heart to help.  “We have the Martinsburg Union Rescue Mission just a few blocks away,” Nelson said, adding the Mission has restrooms available to those who are homeless and feed the public three meals a day.  She believes  faith organizations could partner with the mission to “feed homeless folks at a much larger scale.”

She says it has become a problem in the town square when the homeless being served by large meal events “don’t respect the private property rights of the people who own the buildings around them.”

Nelson described conflicts between business owners and “people who feel that they can do whatever they want to do to a piece of public property.”

The councilwoman from Ward 4 says it’s a safety issue too, and adds, “I want people to feel safe to come downtown and  enjoy their lunch and their dinner by the fountain.”

Thursday’s Martinsburg City Council Agenda had listed the item under new business: “Approve/deny Special Event Permit 2023-24 for Sanctified Street Ministries’ Homeless
Feeding and Church Service in the Town Square Pedestrian Plaza every Thursday through December 28, 2023 from 6-7 PM, contingent upon proof of adequate liability insurance and payment of any recommended fees for City services.”