Jun 7, 2022 - News

In Richmond, social services dominate 311 requests

Data: City of Richmond; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Help with social services is now the most requested service for Richmond's 311 call center and website, with inquiries spiking 70% during the pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic upended normal life for everyone, but many of the city's most vulnerable citizens were left in critical need of core services the Department of Social Services provides, like child protective services, SNAP benefits and financial help with energy bills and child care.

  • The spike in requests stemmed from pandemic-related expansions of federal and state benefits — and quite simply more people in need of services, said Peter Breil, RVA 311's director.

Flashback: In non-pandemic times, Breil told Axios that calls for new trash cans and questions about personal property tax bills were the most frequent requests.

Of note: According to RVA 311 data obtained by Axios, the bulk of calls for social services for the past 14 months were concentrated in low-income areas of the city.

  • With more than 10,000 calls since March 2021, the 6th District — which straddles the river and includes downtown Richmond and three of the city's six largest public housing communities — accounted for the most DSS requests.
  • The 7th District, where two of the large public housing complexes sit, had the second-most requests at just over 5,000 calls.
  • The 1st District — the wealthiest in the city, encompassing Windsor Farms and the Near West End — had 386 calls for DSS within the same period, the least of any district in the city.

Quick take: It seems the portal where many Richmonders chiefly request new trash cans or lodge complaints about potholes has become a defacto safety net for locals in need.

  • Breil said he credits his team of 14 workers for acting as essential workers throughout the pandemic.

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