Posted by Phil Riggan – email
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Homelessness is down in Richmond...a trend you might not expect to see in a tough economy.
NBC12 uncovered a study that says the double-digit decrease is mostly thanks to the Richmond Police Department.
The study says that decrease is actually in the double digits...down 12 percent from January of 2009 to January of 2010.
The specialized unit has helped that trend by working here -- in the tents and sidewalks where Richmond's homeless make their homes.
They take on the problems most people just drive by. For people on the street, these Richmond police officers truly represent "hope."
The team is called HOPE -- Homeless Outreach Partnerships and Enforcement. The officers facilitate relationships between care organizations and the people who may think they have nowhere else to go.
Robert Woolridge has been living on the streets for almost two years.
Today, he and members of HOPE talk about his options, from shelters to help from the Veterans Administration or Social Services.
"It's kind of rough. It's kind of rough. The weather gets rough and people get rough some time," Woolridge said. "A lot of times people are kind but it's just rough. Life's just getting rougher and rougher everyday for everybody."
Now Woolridge is on officer Jason Kuti's radar...who will work with a social services representative to try and change the man's life.
It's a challenge when every person is dealing with different needs.
"There are definitely people out here that want help," Kuti said, "and some of them don't fit into the right square peg in a round hole."
The unit connects each person with the outreach group matching the obstacle, eventually learning names, faces and circumstances.
The goal is life off the streets, ultimately making the community better.
One man the unit tried to visit on its patrol is getting assistance from Caritas, another found a place with his brother. It's these success stories officer Jason Kuti says make the community better for everyone.
"If we can get somebody off the street, then they're not going to be causing calls for service," he said. "They might not be trespassing, they might not be drinking in public."
Homeward will start another count next week. While they're on the streets, volunteers will also survey the homeless on what other services could be important.
Homeward needs volunteers to help with the count. It will be next Thursday starting at 9 a.m. For more information, go to www.homewardva.org/pitcount.