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How COVID-19 has changed how Richmond is caring for the homeless

1100-plus homeless offered shelter during pandemic
HomelessRichmond.jpg
Posted at 7:09 PM, Oct 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-19 03:16:47-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- When the pandemic hit Metro Richmond, local organizations and community partners began planning to combat homelessness.

"Since mid-March, we have been able to offer shelter to over 1,100 people and almost 800 of those have been through a non-congregant shelter program that we set up in mid-March," Homeward Executive Director Kelly King Horne said.

Horne said the agency has helped by providing symptom screenings, utilizing hotel rooms for non-congregate sheltering, and limiting space in shelters. Homeward is looking through their collaborative action plan to see what else they can do in case of an increase in homelessness.

However, other community groups still have concerns. Bridgette Whitaker from Blessing Warriors RVA said there are still too many loose ends for the needy to fall through the cracks.

"We are thankful that the city and coordinating organizations are finally working together to get people off the streets... Although we are making progress in getting people off the streets and registered properly," Whitaker said. "There are still a lot of loose ends that should not be... considering this network has been operating and receiving millions for years."

Whitaker said the elderly and medically needy have fallen through the cracks and that the application and approval process for people moving into stable housing has been difficult.

Horne agreed there is an historical issue with affordable housing for those transitioning out of homelessness. However, she said Homeward is doing what they can to start the process by getting everyone off the streets.

"We have done two things. One is really working to increase how quickly someone can come inside and how quickly they can exit to stability," Horne said. "And then we have also worked to expand our communications network."

As the colder months start to roll in, Horne said her agency is looking into other options since the city eliminated the cold weather shelter back in in May as part of the Homeless Strategic Plan.

"We are still researching options to quickly expand emergency shelter capacity," Horne said. "Right now we do it through non-congregate shelters and through emergency shelters. But we working to find alternatives to have people in one large room, close together."

If you or someone you know if facing homelessness, call the Homeless Crisis Line at 804-972-0813 or Visit an Access Point or Connection Point.

At these physical locations, Greater Richmond Continuum of Care member or partner organizations will offer a safe, welcoming indoor space and access to the pipeline of care through the Homeless Crisis Line or a case worker.

Connection Points in the City of Richmond include the following:

  • RVA Light – 504 W Broad St.REAL Life – 406 E Main St.OAR of Richmond – 3111 W Clay St.
  • Main Branch of the Richmond Public Library – 101 E Franklin St.
  • Southside Plaza – 4100 Hull Street Rd.

These are in addition to the GRCoC Access Points where services are provided. You can see a complete systems map, provided by the GRCoC, here. [homewardva.org]