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Are homeless using cold weather overflow shelters?

Posted at 9:07 PM, Nov 12, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--Efforts to help Richmond's homeless population is kicking into overdrive as temperatures are forecasted to remain at or below 40 degrees.

"There's an email blast that goes out to all the service providers letting them know that the Cold weather shelter is going to be open,” Margot Ackermann, Research & Education Director at Homeward, said.

The City of Richmond is teaming up with a number of churches and non-profit groups that are providing shelters to the homeless.  Then, if there’s any overflow, citizens are transferred to the old Public Safety building on North Ninth Street.

"You make sure that you're serving the individuals in need and not just having an open door for anyone and everyone to come in,” said Angela Yancey, Deputy Director, Richmond’s Department of Social Services.

The homeless must go through a process before they stay in the overflow shelter.

"When we track the individuals, we have a small window of time to get them registered, get some information.  Find out what services they may be in need of.  Do a little bit of screening.  So, that way we can move them to permanent homes,” said Yancey.

Are the homeless actually using the shelters?

"I think as the weather gets colder and as a community, as we do a better job of connecting and helping get resources, we don't expect it to get up to the level that it was last year,” Ackermann said.

According to city officials, 120 people filled Richmond's cold weather shelter last year at Sixth Mount Zion Baptist church.

The current capacity at the City's Public Safety building is ninety.

So, what happens if more people sign up?

Angela Yancey with Richmond's Department of Social Services said the city will rely on resources offered by those homeless organizations.

"The fact that we've already talked about them expanding some of their services at a sub-level, we believe we'll be fine with the 90 that we have at capacity to serve,” said Yancey.

Richmond police will be making the rounds looking for the homeless in city parks.

And there are rules for anyone who uses Richmond’s cold weather overflow shelter.  They include no weapons, no violence, no abusive language and no drugs or alcohol is allowed.

The overflow shelter is located at the City’s Public Safety Building, 501 North 9th Street. The shelter entrance is the second entrance on the 9th Street side of the building closest to Leigh Street. The shelter opens at 7 p.m. and closes tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. Shelter registration will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. each night it is open.

Residents in need of overnight shelter are asked to report to Commonwealth Catholic Charities Homeless Point of Entry by 5 p.m. for a comprehensive intake and referral to the appropriate shelter. Commonwealth Catholic Charities Homeless Point of Entry is located at 511 West Grace Street. A referral to the Cold Weather Overflow Shelter will be provided to individuals who are not eligible for an existing shelter or if all available beds have been filled. Individuals seeking access to the Overflow Shelter must have a referral.

The city’s Department of Social Services (DSS) provides emergency assistance with gas and electric disconnection notices for residents who qualify. Residents may also call the Fuel Line at (804) 646-7046.

The elderly or residents with disabilities should contact Senior Connections for assistance at (804) 343-3000, Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.