Meeting on where homeless will get services set for Thursday

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Concern is growing for Richmond's homeless. Many are wondering where they will go when Monroe Park closes for a huge renovation. The eight acre park is the de facto meeting place for Richmonders who have fallen on tough times and those willing to help them. The news it could close for nine to 18 months is another blow to those already down on their luck.

Timothy Ruffin knows what it's like to have nowhere to go. Friday he'll finally move into his own place but he's been living on and off the streets all his life. The one constant he could always count on is Monroe Park.

"People that know about it know that it's a safe environment and we're all pretty much a unit out here," he said. "This was the only place I knew to come."

There's no timeline for exactly when the $6.2-million park renovation will begin but one thing is for sure: because of the extensive work the city is doing, for safety reasons contractors will put up a large fence restricting access to the entire park.

Richmond's homeless will no longer be able to go there to get the services they rely on, including food drop offs, clothing donations and camaraderie.

"Where do they go now," Ruffin asked. "What do they do?"

Those are the questions City Councilman Charles Samuels hopes to answer at a community meeting Thursday night. The discussion will include service providers and those seeking their help.

"We want to make sure that people know where they can go to continue to provide the services and for the folks that receive the services where they can go to continue receiving them," he said.

It's welcome news for Ruffin, who explained only those who have been there can truly understand how important the central meeting place is to those with nowhere else to turn.

"I think it's a good idea to hear some voices," he said. "For us to be the voice, our opinions, our thoughts."

The meeting is Thursday night from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Carillon at Dogwood Dell.

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