Richmond’s homeless situation worsening with evictions and inmate releases

Published: May. 23, 2022 at 12:23 PM EDT|Updated: May. 23, 2022 at 6:29 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - It’s considered a snapshot in time, but a report shows Richmond’s homeless problem is only getting worse. About 740 people are considered homeless and out on the streets, reaching levels not seen since the 2008 economic recession.

“There are tent cities all throughout this city, and there are people, families, households that are living in cars parked at Walmart, that are living in tents, and that’s not okay. That’s not okay,” said Tracey Hardney-Scott, NAACP Housing chair.

The COVID-19 pandemic created economic uncertainty for a city already facing a 19% poverty rate.

Now, hundreds of public housing families are facing eviction. About 700 are on Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority’s at-risk list, with 300 being put out this summer.

“Homelessness is an issue as long as we have an affordable housing crisis, a mental health crisis, all the other symptoms in our society that aren’t being addressed that lead to individuals finding themselves in unstable housing,” said Stephanie Lynch, Richmond City Council.

Meanwhile, area real estate and rent prices have skyrocketed. And 4,000 inmates are set for early release this summer, with a good majority coming back into the Richmond area.

“We welcome the re-entry population with welcome arms and open arms and know that we need to have the resources in place so that they can be stable,” said Lynch.

The city is trying to create more bed capacity for the homeless, possibly this summer. But some on the council are also pushing for a 24-hour homeless shelter.

This week, Richmond’s NAACP is hosting a state of emergency in the housing forum to get all those organizations helping the homeless on the same page. It will be a closed-door event, so those on the frontlines can have an honest talk about solutions moving forward.

“We have a lot of great agencies that work with the homeless, but they’ve got to get to the point now of stopping working in silos and work as collectively as possible,” said Hardney-Scott.

About $1 million is sitting in a family crisis fund right now. That’s direct cash assistance for struggling Richmond families. A year after approval, Councilor Lynch says the city is still working on getting that money out.

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