RICHMOND, Va. -- Along with new resources for mental health and job training services, Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority is bringing back security in each of its housing communities.
The announcement was made at a press conference Thursday as a part of RRHA's package of 'Hope, Jobs and Security'.
Richmond mothers Marilyn Olds and Tonya Williams spoke out at the press conference as they’ve both been impacted by the violence that has occurred in Richmond's public housing communities.
"We had no strength to walk, to talk, all we could was pray and hope," Williams said, describing the moments she found out her daughter was killed. "Every morning, I wake up and I cry to start my day, so how would you feel if you woke up like this every morning?"
The tragedy happened in May 2022.
"You've got to give the people hope, you've got to give the people encouragement, you've got to give them something to strive for," Williams said in support of the new initiative by RRHA.
Olds has been living on a property for most of her life and said she’s witnessed countless funerals caused by unnecessary violence. "The cemetery is across the street from where I live, and I used just look out my window and see all the stones and I would cry," Williams said.
CEO of RRHA Steven Nesmith said the package has three major components, the first being mental health resources. "It's very personal to me having grown up in public housing and that it is a holistic package," he said.
"We provide more services for our public housing residents who say 'I just need to get that capacity; I need to deal with the stuff to get on the road of self-sufficiency and take advantage of those opportunities.'"
The second part of the program is job training for youth and adult residents. "In addition to that at the end of that job training, specific jobs that they can go into from being an electrician, to construction or maintenance," said Nesmith.
The last new addition is new services from Sentry Force Security, a private firm also providing services in Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
RRHA previously employed its own security team but that was disbanded almost 10 years ago. "I want the residents to say you may have been trained to do what you do but you don’t know how to patrol our communities, we will tell where we want you and where we don’t want you," described Nesmith.
He said security will patrol every day from the hours 1 p.m. to 3 a.m. "We will change up patrolling based on looking at statistics and listening to residents," Nesmith said.
Olds explained while she’s glad to see the plan also includes de-escalation training, she feels the root of making real change lies heavily on the mental health resources. "If you got people that’s mentally not balanced going through their own personal chaos, their own problems involving mental health and physical health then they’re not able to come aboard and join this," Olds explained.
She said hopes to see RRHA make good on their promises and that residents take advantage of the new program. "Residents have been built up over the years and have been let down too many times, and so it’s time for them that if you can't do it don’t say it," Olds said.
Sentry force security forces have already started in all of the housing communities. Mental health and job training services are set to start this November.
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