Homeless population getting turned away due to lack of shelter space

The city currently has space for roughly a few dozen people, and many people are getting turned away because there aren’t enough beds.
Published: Nov. 28, 2022 at 5:36 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - As temperatures continue to drop, the city of Richmond has only two cold weather shelters open for use, which is leaving some people without a place to stay.

The city currently has space for roughly a few dozen people, and many people are getting turned away because there aren’t enough beds. Work continues as the city hopes to open up two more shelters for a total of four.

The other two cold weather shelters that are not open yet - one on Chamberlayne Parkway and the other at 5th Street Baptist Church - are supposed to be ready in a couple of weeks. However, several officials have said that those locations will unlikely meet that deadline.

This is the first year the city is trying a scattered model approach with its cold weather shelters. It used to have one main location. The only two locations that are open for use right now are operated by RVA Sister’s Keeper and United Nations Church.

City leaders are now scrambling to get two more shelters up and running. One might not even open up at all because of where it’s located. That space would likely need a special use permit in order to operate, according to officials from City Hall who want to remain anonymous.

“It’s deeply concerning that we do not have the capacity that we’ve had in previous years,” said Richmond City Councilor Stephanie Lynch.

If those other two locations did open they would add over 60 more beds to the city’s total. With a lack of space available right now many people are getting turned away.

“Naturally we’re dealing with just the confusion that would exist based on the fact that we have two brand new locations and then I think the lack of capacity, and the questioning of whether or not to try to access those services - are they going to get them,” Lynch explained.

Kelly King Horne, who is the executive director of Homeward, said that the lack of cold weather shelter space for the homeless population is troubling, especially since the number of unhoused people in the region has been on the rise.

Homeward has counted roughly 700 people experiencing homelessness in Richmond and surrounding counties on any given day.

“We have seen an increase during the pandemic, which is unfortunately not surprising, and now we are really seeing how difficult things are particularly with the lack of affordable housing, the increase in rent and just a huge number of people potentially facing eviction,” Horne stated.

NBC12 reached out to the city of Richmond for comment, but has not heard back yet.