Distributive policy

Concerns grow over city’s policy to shelter the homeless | Richmond Free Press

Apparently, for the first time in a decade, City Hall did not open a temporary shelter for the homeless when temperatures, including wind chill, recently fell below 40 degrees.

While the forecast temperature was over 40 degrees, a strong northerly breeze that was also forecast made the city feel like 39 degrees, triggering a policy in place since 2012 that requires an overflow shelter.

In response to a question from Free Press, city spokeswoman Petula Burks, director of the city’s office of strategic communications, maintained that the policy is still in effect but declined to answer follow-up questions.

According to Rhonda Sneed, founding executive director of homeless food and support group Blessing Warriors RVA, the city’s inaction to provide shelter over the weekend is consistent with what she has heard from City officials explain at a recent meeting about shelter operations.

“They said the temperature had to be 40 degrees or less and the wind chill wouldn’t be considered,” said Ms Sneed, who is upset the city changed the policy. “All the nonprofit shelters are full, so there’s nowhere to go.”

She said the problem was becoming more serious as she saw more people living with their children in cars or sleeping on sidewalks or in doorways. While overnight temperatures of 50 degrees or better are predicted for the days ahead, colder temperatures are on the way as winter approaches.

Ms Sneed said she and members of her organization are on the streets 10 to 14 hours a day delivering food, blankets and clothing to homeless people. “We serve 200 people a day and we strive.”

She said her group was more than able to meet the need with a daily distribution of 50 to 60 sandwiches, bowls of soup and dozens of hard-boiled eggs, but that can’t go far enough. “Our demand for food has doubled due to the increasing number of people we find.”

The town hall, however, is not rushing to fill the lack of shelters. Next Monday, November 7, City Council will hold a special meeting to authorize city officials to spend approximately $900,000 on weather shelters at four locations.

However, the city’s plan, as outlined by Sherrill Hampton, director of the city’s housing and community development department, calls for a single 60-bed shelter to open, and there’s no guarantee that will happen.

The ordinances to be passed would allow Ms Hampton’s department to spend $615,0000 with Catholic Charities in the Commonwealth of Virginia to operate this small shelter, leaving three others closed until more money is found.

However, CCC, which plans to use space at the Salvation Army’s new location at 1900 Chamberlayne Avenue, said Oct. 10 that no agreement had been reached with the city to open the shelter.

CCC confirmed this week that there is still no deal. In its public statement, the CCC said it intended to serve

to 150 people at that location, but later found he would only be paid to operate 60 beds, with three other locations to pay to operate shelters of 30 beds each to create a total of 150 beds.

The 30-bed sites are located at Fifth Street Baptist Church on the North Side and the newly founded United Nations Church and RVA Sister’s Keeper, both on the South Side, according to the city plan.

According to the CCC statement, “We are awaiting detailed information on how the city proposes to coordinate access to sites with available beds, how transportation will be provided if a community member arrives at an unoccupied site. and how a standard level of care will be provided” across the four sites.

“CCC has not committed to operating this model this winter, and we have advised the city that a Nov. 15 opening is extremely unlikely,” the statement continued. November 15 is the date Ms. Hampton announced to City Council the opening of the CCC shelter.

According to the city plan, the other three shelters are to remain closed until additional funds are found. Sharon Ebert, deputy city administrator for economic development, said so publicly.

Despite this, funding was found two weeks ago when a cold snap plunged low temperatures into the 1930s. The city, without public announcement, opened temporary spaces at the Linwood Robinson Senior Center at the last minute. at Church Hill and the United Nations Church on Cowardin Avenue.

Open for two nights, these spaces served only single adults; families with children were not accommodated.

“If you have kids, you’re on your own,” Ms Sneed said. “At this meeting, we were told that the city had no intention of providing family shelter.”