Local emergency shelter resources tapped over RRHA problems

Posted at 10:14 PM, Mar 10, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-11 01:01:24-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--Local emergency shelters say that families coming in for emergency housing are having to stay in their shelters for much longer than usual because of a problem with the Richmond Redevelopment Housing Authority’s (RRHA) background check process.

The organization makes public housing available only to low-income families and individuals.

The head of shelter services for Richmond’s Salvation Army branch, Dan McManus, said several families in his shelter have cleared the background check, yet, continue to wait for public housing.

“I know it’s creating a major problem for us,” McManus said.

McManus said if people cannot leave the area’s emergency shelters, then families in need cannot get into them.

“This is designed to be temporary," McManus said.  "It’s a 30 day shelter."

McManus said the problem started six months ago in October, which is when the background check process for families in emergency shelter hoping for a home in public housing abruptly came to a halt.

“No, I am not satisfied with RRHA right now,” McManus said.

Neisha Smith heads up one of the families waiting for public housing.

Smith entered an emergency shelter in December, and has lived in three different temporary homes since then.

She said she filled out paper work for two separate background checks, but each time, she heard nothing from RRHA.

The checks must be completed for a family to be admitted to public housing.

Smith said she’s tried to find out what the delay is by contacting RRHA.

“You leave messages, and you don’t get calls back,” Smith said.

CBS6 went to RRHA to find out the reason for the delay.

A spokeswoman for the authority refused to talk to reporter Melissa Hipolit on camera, but she did send her a statement:

“In its ongoing efforts to create a more efficient and improved management system, RRHA determined that it needed to change its background screening process, which included procuring an appropriate vendor. Although it took longer than anticipated, we are pleased to share that RRHA recently identified the appropriate vendors to conduct the background check process.

As a result, RRHA is now prepared to move forward with deliberate speed to begin conducting the background screening process for the ready-pool of applicants on the RRHA public housing waiting list. (RRHA’s Housing Choice Voucher Program was not impacted by the change in the background check system. Due to sequestration and funding constraints, the RRHA HCVP wait list is not open.)

RRHA is grateful to all applicants for their patience, cooperation and understanding as we work to improve the agency’s management services.”

The director for another area shelter provider, CARITAS, told CBS6 that RRHA told CARITAS that it used to do the background checks in house, but began outsourcing them in October.

CBS6 contacted the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to find out if there is a policy for background checks.

A spokesperson told us an outside company does all background checks.

After CBS6 contacted HUD, the spokeswoman told Melissa they are currently looking into the situation with RRHA.