Oct 14, 2022 - News

Richmond’s cold weather shelter scramble

Illustration of a welcome mat that reads "help"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Richmond plans to open new emergency homeless shelters in four neighborhoods around the city.

Yes, but: The first facility won't open until mid-November at the earliest, well after nighttime temperatures have dipped below the 40°F threshold at which city code dictates emergency shelter should be provided.

  • "I just want to draw attention to the fact that [next week] it's going to be 33°F," Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch said during a City Council meeting Thursday.

Catch up fast: The city had partnered with Commonwealth Catholic Charities to open a permanent, 24-hour shelter on Oliver Hill Way, but the plan fell apart this summer when no contractors submitted bids for the project.

What's happening: The city now plans to fund four smaller facilities, Sherrill Hampton, the director of the city's Department of Housing and Community Development, told City Council members.

  • The first site to open would be a 60-bed facility at 1900 Chamberlayne Parkway, operated by Commonwealth Catholic Charities.

Later in the winter, the city hopes to open three 30-bed facilities:

  • One in Highland Park at Fifth Street Baptist Church.
  • And two in Southside, one at RVA Sister's Keeper at 2807 Hull Street and another in Manchester at United Nations Church on Cowardin Avenue.

What they're saying: The plan "eliminates any one neighborhood bearing the brunt of 150 beds for 180 days," Hampton said, addressing arguments earlier this year among City Council members about which neighborhood should host the shelter.

Details: The first phase of the plan is expected to cost $1.3 million. The second phase, which includes the opening of the three smaller shelters, will cost another $3 million, which has not yet been budgeted.

What we're watching: The initial capacity of 60 beds falls short of past demand when the temperatures drop below freezing.

  • In past years, the shelter has regularly housed more than 100 people a night, and the number of unsheltered people experiencing homelessness has surged since pandemic aid programs ended.

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