Richmond partnering with group to open new inclement weather shelter: 'It’s an opportunity to serve'

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Posted at 11:12 PM, Nov 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-17 13:49:29-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- In just over two weeks a nonprofit partnering with the city of Richmond will open a 150-bed inclement weather shelter.

The city approved the measure this week after organizers shared how they plan to prepare for this quick turnaround.

They are utilizing a previously owned building on Chamberlayne Avenue that is currently being rented out by other nonprofits.

Stephen Batsche, the Executive Director of Program Services with the Salvation Army Central Virginia is working with his team around the clock at the Salvation Army to meet a December 1 goal to open Richmond’s nightly inclement weather shelter.

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The Richmond City Council approved the funding for the shelter Monday night, which gives the Salvation Army roughly 18 days to get the shelter up and going.

The shelter will be open nightly from December to April for 150 people, and after the colder season ends, 50 of those beds will be available year-round, according to Batsche.

“It feels like something we are meant to do. It’s an opportunity to serve more individuals and we want to expand our work,” Batsche said.

The shelter will have a courtyard for people to gather, a dining area for meals, and a segmented area for beds.

While Batsche said things are on time with staging the facility, completing building repairs, and finalizing logistics of the operation, he is finding that their greatest hurdle between now and opening the shelter - is hiring staff.

“We want to provide compassionate care and respectful care and respect the dignity of all people we serve and we want to have staff that are trained on policies and procedures,” he said.

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Prior to the city's approval, a neighborhood group was vocal in their opposition to the shelter.

That’s because of what they said took place last year when a different nonprofit opened a temporary shelter at the same location.

The Chamberlayne Industrial Center Neighborhood Association claimed there were people loitering and defecating on the streets and hampering businesses.

Batsche addressed those concerns with CBS6 saying they have been working with neighbors and addressed those concerns to the council at the meeting on Monday.

“They are legit public safety concerns. The city of Richmond is taking them seriously. We’re going to try to do our part on our premises. We’re going to do what it takes to minimize those concerns,” he said.

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Batsche believes the work they are doing to open the shelter is critical in saving lives in the city. He said their organization believes everyone deserves compassion and no judgment.

They say they are happy to be the organization working with others to provide that.

The city council approved the shelter with the commitment that the Richmond Police Department will provide weekly updates on crime statistics in the neighborhood.

The city council also approved a second year-round 50-bed shelter that is set to open in May 2024.

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