City to open new temporary shelter

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 10/5/2023, 6 p.m.
Richmond will have a far bigger temporary shelter if another tropical storm hits or the weather plunges below freezing in …
Ms. Deshazor

Richmond will have a far bigger temporary shelter if another tropical storm hits or the weather plunges below freezing in the next two months.

Instead of using a small space in City Hall, Mayor Levar M. Stoney’s administration now will shelter people without any place to go on the first floor and basement of the city’s building at 730 E. Broad St.

The space will be able to hold 65 single men, 30 single women and five households with children, according to Traci Deshazor, deputy chief administrative officer for human services.

The decision that delighted City Council members followed tart criticism after Ms. Deshazor and her staff only provided room for 40 people at City Hall as Tropical Storm Ophelia dumped three inches of rain on the city over 36 hours beginning Sept. 22, turning others away.

Ms. Deshazor said the 730 building would be available for use until the 150- bed winter shelter that the Salvation Army plans to set up at 1900 Chamberlayne Ave. is ready for use.

The proposal to provide expanded, temporary space was disclosed to City Council on Monday during council’s Organizational Development Committee meeting.

Fifth District Councilwoman Stephanie A. Lynch, who chairs the council’s Education and Human Services Committee and has been lobbying for a year-round shelter for four years, praised Ms. Deshazor for coming up with a “better way forward” in providing temporary shelter.

Third District Councilwoman Ann-Frances Lambert also cheered the administration’s move as did several other council members.

The move came as the city’s chief administrator, Lincoln Saunders, prepared to provide new funding for an emergency fund the city has established to pay bills that could force families into the street or block them from getting new homes.

The Free Press was told that Mr. Saunders has approved forwarding a proposal to allow $800,000 of the projected surplus from the 2022-23 fiscal year that ended June 30 to be steered toward the fund. The fund, which already has helped hundreds of families, has spent more than $1.2 million of the $2 million that has been provided and could run out by December without new funding.

Separately at the committee meeting, the council offered strong support for administration plans to provide subsidies for new affordable apartment developments in South Side, including a 216-unit complex proposed for Walmsley Boulevard and a 116-unit complex proposed for 8th and Hull streets.