By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The City of Philadelphia and homeless advocacy groups are now one step closer to settling the dispute over the city’s outdoor feeding ban.

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The ban went into effect last June, but was temporarily blocked by a federal court in July after homeless groups sued the city (see related story).

But now, both sides indicate they are willing to sit down and negotiate a way to help those in need.

Rev. Brian Jenkins of Chosen 300 Ministries is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.  He says much of the tension between the parties is gone.

“Although we disagree on the area of outdoor meals,” Jenkins tells KYW Newsradio, “I think there’s enough that we agree on that the homeless need our help,” said Jenkins.

The parties filed an interim agreement in the federal case, whereby the city promised to drop its appeal of the court’s ruling blocking the law and sit down to negotiate the best way to deal with the outdoor feedings.

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“This agreement allows both the city and the organizations that serve the homeless outside to sit at the table and come up with solutions,” says Jenkins.

Nutter administration spokesman Mark McDonald says the city is interested in adopting several recommendations from the Mayor’s Task Force on the Outdoor Serving of Food, convened last spring.  Some of the options include creating a position within the administration to coordinate with homeless advocates and building a neutral indoor facility for public feedings.

“It would be available to any group who wanted to do public food donations,” says McDonald.  “They could on a particular evening, put their banner outside the door, and it would be their place. And perhaps the next day at lunch time, another group could use it in the same way.  That way, any groups that lack the capacity to develop a center city facility would be able to have that and have their religious or civic community volunteers working with people in need.”

The parties will begin discussions next month.

For more info on the Mayor’s Task force or its recommendations, click here:

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