Advocates for a homeless encampment in Richmond say they are fighting against VCU and the City of Richmond to protect its residents from being kicked out of the property.
On Thursday, a a sea of small tents crowded on the ground in the pouring rain next to Richmond's cold weather shelter on Oliver Hill Way.
Bridgett Whitaker-Williams, an advocate for the homeless who sleeps in the tent village, acknowledges that the tent city has grown in the last few months.
It’s something that hits her in the heart because she too, at one time was homeless.
Whitaker-Williams and others are trying to protect those who live here from being put off of the property by the city.
The land is owned by VCU, and VCU Spokesperson Mike Porter said the concern is that the property has contaminated soil.
He said that they are collaborating with the city and the Homeward organization to connect the people living in the tent city with appropriate resources for shelter and food, and that the goal will be to relocate them as soon as possible.
But Whitaker-Williams and other homeless advocates are confronting city leaders and pressing for immediate, permanent shelter.
Sixth District Council rep Ellen Robertson said they won’t force the men and women out of their tents.
Instead, the city will set up social services workers and other service providers in the Conrad Center a few times a week to delve into the needs of each person experiencing homelessness.
Robertson said that after the meeting, she was told that three people were successfully removed into a more permanent housing situation.
Whitaker-Williams said that as quickly as those three went, their spaces in the homeless camp were filled immediately, and that the city is not working fast enough to give the men and women sleeping there a hand up.
Robertson added that the city’s homeless strategic plan calls for 150 additional shelter beds and 300 units of permanent supportive housing, but that it will take time.