How Henrico's Hilliard House is changing the face of homeless shelters

Posted at 5:03 PM, Dec 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-19 18:14:28-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Taralynn Hopkins has three children, ages two, four and five. She's expecting a fourth child soon.

Hopkins and her family are going on three months living at Hilliard House in Henrico County, the area's largest emergency shelter for families, as she continues to look for a job.

"I've had job offers, but waiting on childcare is another issue," Hopkins said. "So that's a waiting game. And in order to work, I have to have that, because I have small kids."

This is not the first time Hopkins has stayed in a homeless shelter.

"The one I had was more like a facility-type environment. I don't know how to explain it, because we were all housed together. Men, women, children. It was rough," Hopkins said.

At Hilliard House, Hopkins has her own room, beds for her children, and a private bathroom.

Terry Iguina, the Director of Operations with Housing Families First, which oversees Hilliard House, said the unique format of the shelter gives families a sense of peace and privacy they may not have found in other shelters.

The shelter only requires families to be currently experiencing unsheltered homelessness with dependents.

"The humans we serve here must be literally homeless. It means they're not sleeping in a place that's meant for human habitation. So a lot of our families are sleeping in cars, are sleeping in storage units and coming here from that."

Iguina said the shelter usually serves around 700 people each year, with many of their clients coming from eastern parts of Richmond and Henrico County. After a three-year renovation process, the shelter recently reopened with the goal of doubling the number of families using its services.

The goal of the shelter, however, is to transition families into permanent housing as soon as possible.

"We have seen our numbers go to about 60 days average for families before we're putting them in permanent housing. And then our work is to support them in their own home, so we'll follow them into the community and make sure they're really putting roots down, back into our community," Iguina said.

The renovated space boasts over 17,500 square feet, which includes a basketball court, office space and a separate entrance created for families living at Hilliard house for greater privacy.

The shelter also has multiple rooms and bathrooms that are fully handicapped-accessible.

It also includes a "boutique" filled with common household items families can need once they transition out of the shelter. All of the items were donated by volunteers.

"A lot of times, we see families come in with not a lot of the possessions that they had in their home. Those are sometimes the first things they let go of when they lose a place to live. So, to immediately regain those items is so important," Iguina said.

Though Hopkins said she's working to find a home to raise her children, she's glad to be at Hilliard House.

"I really like being here. I would really hate to go, and I know I need to go, but I've liked being here," she said.



Watch 'The Jennifer Hudson Show' weekdays at 3 p.m. on CBS 6!

📱 Download CBS 6 News App
The app features breaking news alerts, live video, weather radar, traffic incidents, closings and delays and more.