Cafe owner faces backlash after incident involving homeless woman

The incident is now in the middle of a social media firestorm.

A local business owner is explaining his actions after a couple of customers expressed outrage over how he treated their homeless friend. 

Kayleen Scott was once a homeless girl on the streets hungry for compassion. When she met a young homeless woman on Edgewood Avenue in the Old Fourth Ward, she gravitated towards her.

“I've met her several different times, helped her out with a few different things. She's always been super polite,” Scott said. “She's never asked me for anything. I just offered.”

Last Monday, Scott and her friend Becka Cowan were having lunch on the patio of Café Velo on Edgewood Avenue when the homeless woman walked by. The women invited her to join them, and Scott went in to get her a sandwich. But she said the owner quickly became irritated.

“He said if the sandwich is going to be for her it needs to be to-go,” Scott said.

The women said they were taken aback.

“He was feeding stray cats on the patio but she wasn't allowed -- a human wasn't allowed on the patio,” Cowan said.

But the cafe owner explained he had issues with homeless people soliciting in the past and didn't want to encourage that behavior in his business.  He went on to explain on Facebook, “I had people on the patio being solicited nearly every five minutes…literally. “

“I understand not wanting panhandling or people harassing, but I'm telling you that this woman was not doing that,” Scott said. “She wasn't yelling. She wasn't causing a scene. She was very quiet and polite. The only thing is that she's homeless."

“I give homeless people money,” Cowan said. “I give them gift cards around here so that's what my concern is. Are they not allowed to go in and use these anywhere? Are they still denied just because they are homeless?

But the cafe owner doubled-down on his comments. He wrote on Facebook that he has a "zero-tolerance policy when it comes to solicitation and/or purchasing food for homeless within the shop,” and that he didn't want his small, struggling business to be "viewed in the same light as one of those outreach centers or churches, from either the customer's or homeless person's perspective." 

He added, “I had a similar viewpoint as you until I got into the thick of it down here”

Scott said she believes the owner is having second thoughts.

“I think that he does realize that he's wrong,” Scott. “He's deleted all his comments. He's changed what he said. I just wanted people to know that homeless people get treated this way.”

The cafe owner declined to go on camera, but reiterated to 11Alive’s Faith Abubey that he only said he preferred for the homeless woman to take the food to go. He said he's just trying to create a comfortable and safe environment for his customers.

© 2017 WXIA-TV


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