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Richmond has no plans for a cold-weather overflow shelter

Posted at 11:32 PM, Sep 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-04 00:04:03-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A plan to provide more reliable shelter to people experiencing homelessness during extreme weather conditions was shut down during Richmond City Council’s Education and Human Services Standing Committee meeting Thursday.

Councilwoman Kim Gray introduced the ordinance to make the city's Annie Giles Community Resource Center the site for an emergency shelter.

The center has served as a homeless encampment site in the past.

Community members weighed in on the proposed ordinance Thursday during the public hearing. Some like the idea, while others don’t think it’s safe.

"Especially if it becomes permanent. It’s a real issue that’s impacting this neighborhood," Lawrence Williams said.

“This is not a difficult decision, this is the matter of life and death," Bridget Whitaker-Williams said.

In the end, the committee was not on board with Gray’s idea. Some members said there are better alternatives.

"The safest solution is to have households and individuals in hotel units and then provide them the food and care that we have been providing to them," one member said.

“That is not a sustainable plan with the cost of roughly $500 dollars a week per individual for hotel stays," Gray added.

The committee’s final decision leaves the city with no cold weather overflow shelter and no plan in place as Richmond move closer to the colder winter months.

“I’m really concerned that we are 27 days away from October first. The plan is not clear," Councilwoman Kristen Lawson said. "I'm hearing there are plans in the works, but we need to look at right now in this moment is what is going to happen.”

The committee decided Thursday to have a potential plan presented to the city council at their next meeting on September 14th, in hopes of finding a permanent solution.