Less shelter available for people experiencing homelessness, says Richmond nonprofit

Homeward says the number of people living outside in unsheltered conditions rose by 121%
Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 5:41 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) -Every year, nonprofit homeless services organization Homeward conducts two “Point-in-Time” counts where they go out and count the number of people experiencing homelessness across the Richmond Metro region.

They concluded from their most recent count that the number of people living outside in unsheltered conditions increased by 121%.

Homeward counted 85 people living outside in places like cars or tents last winter. That number rose to 188 people this winter.

Kelly King Horne with Homeward says that number is the highest they’ve ever recorded for a winter Point-in-Time count over the last 15 years.

“It’s not surprising because some of the additional resources we had during the pandemic have now gone away, so we are seeing more people outdoors,” said King Horne.

Overall, the total number of people experiencing homelessness stayed about the same from 2022 to 2023, with Homeward recording 690 people in its latest count.

But officials in the Richmond area say that number remains high because of more evictions and higher rental rates. Additionally, there isn’t enough shelter space to help everyone who needs it.

“It’s all on a first-come, first-serve basis, so if you’re not lucky enough to get there in enough time, then you risk the possibility of not getting in at all,” explained Tracey Hardney Scott, Richmond NAACP housing committee chair.

However, work is being done to try to increase those shelter resources.

The city of Richmond has included money in its proposed budget for a year-round shelter to open up.

There has also been discussion about the city’s three cold weather shelter sites staying open for the rest of the year. Normally they would close on April 15.

The city was supposed to open a fourth cold weather shelter this year at 5th Street Baptist Church. The city says they are still in contract negotiations with that site.