Richmond finalizing plans to expand city shelter space during inclement weather

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Posted at 11:05 PM, Oct 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-02 23:10:43-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- After years of fighting for an adequate year-round shelter that could house Richmond’s most vulnerable citizens during severe weather, Richmond City Council members breathed a sigh of relief Monday that the city administration is finalizing a plan to have shelters in place by the year’s end.

“I really appreciate your thoughtfulness and due diligence to have a site-specific that can accommodate the entirety of our city population,” councilmember Cynthia Newbille said to Traci Deshazor, Richmond's Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of Human Services.

Monday’s presentation follows a series of meetings where city officials and community members have discussed new proposals to expand and improve homeless services in the city.

Over the years, advocates have expressed frustration over the lack of shelter space during weather emergencies, a concern that came to a head during September's Tropical Storm Ophelia, when multiple people saythey were turned away from City Hall, which was opened as “a place of last refuge” for homeless individuals and families.

Deshazor says the administration hopes to present papers to council members by next week that will finalize the city’s plan to partner with the Salvation Army to provide a shelter on Chamberlayne Avenue.

The Center of Hope will provide both emergency and year-round beds for Richmonders in need.

“That partnership with the Salvation Army would yield 150 inclement weather shelter beds to be operational this winter going into the spring, and 50 of those 150 beds will convert to year-round beds for single men and women,” Deshazor told councilmembers.

For families, the city will partner with the non-profit organization Home Again, to provide another 50 year-round beds at an old city hostel in downtown Richmond. The additional beds will increase space by 67% for families, and 43% for single adults.

The additional beds will be added to the region’s network of homeless assistance called the Greater Richmond Continuum of Care, where people can go through a coordinated entry process to get placement in shelters.

While the city hopes to have the shelters operational by December 1, an interim location, known as the 730 building, has been selected near City Hall in the event of another tropical storm or weather emergency.

The administration is still coordinating efforts to staff the shelters and provide security.

Deshazor says adequate staffing has been the biggest challenge with funding restraints and the lack of resources.

Last month, City Councilmember Stephanie Lynch, expressed concerns that the administration may not commit to adding $750,000 back into the Family Crisis Fund, which is a program that offers direct cash to help pay for Richmonders’ hotel rooms, rent, and utilities.

On Monday, Stoney’s staff informed CBS 6 that the administration plans to add $800,000 to the fund to help with the implementation of homeless services.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to send a tip.

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