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As Temperatures Drop, Richmond Still Without Permanent Emergency Shelter

City Council Chambers
City Council chambers. (Photo: Roberto Roldan/VPM)

Richmond City Council voted to keep the Annie Giles Community Resource Center as the city’s cold-weather overflow shelter during Monday’s meeting. The temporary assignment once-again postpones the requirement to find a permanent solution for some of Richmond's most vulnerable residents. 

The shelter is located in Shockoe Valley, across from the city jail, and the city has been using it to provide relief for both hot and cold weather. Sixth District City Councilmember Ellen Robertson said the overflow shelter isn’t adequate. 

“A cold weather shelter is a humane thing to do, but it’s not a humanitarian option for providing shelter,” Robertson said. “We let [people] come in at, what, six-o’clock in the afternoon … we kick them out in the street in the morning. It is still cold.”

Robertson’s concerned that with the city’s rapid growth, there will be a rise in homelessness. She said the city needs to look at ways to provide transitional, and affordable housing options at the same rate as high-value properties are emerging across the city. 

“I’m not sure that the best strategy is to have one overflow shelter. It may be necessary that we have more than one that are specific to the locations where the homelessness exists,” Robertson said. 

Last year, criticism from Manchester residents and businesses ended a proposal to locate an overflow shelter with wraparound services on the Southside. Robertson followed by introducing an ordinance requiring the City to produce a Homeless Strategic Plan to identify resources and needs. Robertson said the nonprofit Homeward, contracted to create the plan, requested an extension to the October 1, 2019 deadline. 

Also at Monday's meeting, Council approved an expedited resolution to allocate about $16 million in public housing revenue bonds to a private developer. These funds will be used to renovate a 125-unit rental community on Hospital Street. Some council members voiced concerns about Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s lack of notice on the measure as well as the agency's lack of transparency and public engagement. 

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