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Richmond's homelessness population is increasing, nonprofit reports

Posted at 9:58 AM, Jul 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-21 11:10:17-04

RICHMOND, Va. — Taylor Garrett trekked through the woods in Oregon Hill on a muggy Thursday morning as most Richmonders slept.

CBS 6 followed Garrett as she walked over weeds and by overgrown trees to find a tent tucked away from nearby homes.

“Hello? It’s Taylor from Daily Planet outreach,” she yelled into the woods. “We are here doing a survey today for folks who experience homelessness.”

The Daily Planet Health Services outreach director and a partner traveled the city, physically counting the number of unsheltered individuals starting on Wednesday night. The nationwide Point-in-Time (PIT) count occurs twice a year — in the winter and summer.

Garrett and her team first checked on someone sleeping under a bridge on the Southside. She then found a man asleep in a sleeping bag along the Canal Walk.

They offered a toiletry kit in addition to water and gift cards for those who agreed to take the survey.

The team intentionally travels at night to where the those experiencing homelessness are sleeping before they leave for cooling shelters, libraries or their jobs.

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CBS 6 Reporter Brendan King joined Taylor Garrett with The Daily Planet Health Services on July 21, 2022.

As the sun rose, Garrett drove to a secluded location under the Potterfield Bridge. The person living in a tent there did not want to participate.

Those who decline to answer her questions will get a return visit.

“We’ve seen a lot of people this morning,” Garrett explained.

Garrett has discovered the homeless population in the city is getting younger. However, many of the city’s senior citizens are also ending up on the streets.

“We’ve seen a large influx in folks experiencing homelessness, whether that's engaging with our outreach system, our shelter system or going through our clinic at Daily Planet Health Services," she recalled.

The number of those experiencing homelessness in the greater Richmond area is about 30% higher than it was before the pandemic, according to Homeward's Point-in-Time (PIT) data.

About 20% of the current population experiencing homelessness is between the ages of 18 and 24.

Rising housing prices and diminishing affordable housing options, as well as limited guidance on how to access financial resources, are contributing factors.

“It always comes down to just a lack of resources, a lack of affordable housing stock, a robust mental health system that's able to fully support folks in their experience,” said Diana Martinez, Daily Planet’s outreach coordinator.

Homeward reports about 37% of those experiencing homelessness in its service area identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

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Diana Martinez, The Daily Planet’s outreach coordinator

The Daily Planet will use the information collected to better serve their clients and the population experiencing homelessness.

“It can help us as a clinic figure out what are some of those gaps that we're missing and what our homeless folks are experiencing in the field,” Martinez said.

The results should be released next month.

Richmond's homelessness population is increasing

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