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City Council considers funding two Richmond shelters

building facade
Alex Broening
VPM News file
The former HI Richmond hostel in Monroe Ward may soon become an emergency housing shelter.

The grants would add 200 beds through spring 2024.

Richmond City Council will consider ordinances Monday to fund operations at two planned emergency housing shelters — one in Northside that’s been open in previous seasons and a new shelter downtown.

The Northside shelter — which was operated by Commonwealth Catholic Charities last winter — would be opened nightly by the Salvation Army from Dec. 1 through April 15, 2024. It would be able to house 150 people per night, up from 30 last winter.

The proposed site on Chamberlayne Avenue has received pushback from nearby businesses, according to WTVR. Some business owners have raised concerns about where people staying at the shelter — which closes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. — will go during the day.

The grant before council would fund the inclement weather shelter through spring, using about $1.3 million that was allocated to emergency housing last year, but went unspent as Richmond struggled to get its planned shelters up and running. Of four planned inclement weather shelters, only two were ever in operation.

The city has expressed plans to continue its operations past that April end date. Chief Administrative Officer Lincoln Saunders told a council committee in September that the city wants to offer 50 beds at the Northside facility year-round while expanding back to 150 beds during the winters.

“We have a lease for three years. And at the end of that three years, what we have agreed to with the Salvation Army is to partner with them on a roughly $15 million master plan to improve the facility,” Saunders said.

He added that the agreement includes an option for the city to purchase the Chamberlayne property from the Salvation Army for $4.5 million if the rehab doesn’t go forward.

Council is also set to vote on resolutions that would clear the way for a new downtown shelter in the former Richmond Hostel/Seven Hills Hostel & Lodge. That shelter would be run by local nonprofit HomeAgain and provide housing for 50 people at a time, according to Traci Deshazor with Richmond’s Office of Human Services.

“Fifty beds that will support families. It will be a year-round shelter operation that will operate 24/7,” Deshazor said.

The downtown shelter would also be funded with unspent funds from last year — about $650,000 to get it set up and operate it for seven months.

While the contract with HomeAgain is set to run for two years, council would still need to fund operation past July 1, 2024.

Connor Scribner is a former VPM News assistant editor.
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