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City Proposes Moving Downtown Homeless Shelter to Manchester to Clear the Way for Coliseum Redevelopment

News broke recently of the City’s plans to abruptly close the downtown cold weather homeless shelter located at the Public Safety Building and not make it available starting this October. Apparently, the Coliseum redevelopment deal that is in the works has new plans for that land. No doubt, those shiny new plans don’t call for a homeless shelter remaining as part of the mix.

But the City cannot simply do away with its homeless shelter. It has to find a new home. And regardless of the benefits of having a centralized downtown facility to serve the homeless, Dominion’s Tom Farrell and the City want it out of the way.

So where is the newly proposed location? Their solution calls for pushing the homeless shelter across the river into the middle of Manchester’s residential district and into the former Community Bainbridge Street Baptist Church & School at 1101 Bainbridge Street. After sitting down with Jay Brown who runs the homeless shelter on behalf of the city as part of Commonwealth Catholic Charities and his hired lobbyist for the initiative Kathy Graziano, here is what is known of the plans:

  • Commonwealth Catholic Charities has been given a directive by the City to vacate the Public Safety Building by October 1st of this year and set up in a new location, paving the way for the Coliseum redevelopment plans.
  • Commonwealth Catholic Charities has put Manchester’s Community Bainbridge Street Baptist Church & School complex under contract for purchase as its new location for the homeless shelter.
  • The proposed Manchester homeless shelter would no longer be a cold weather shelter as it is at the Public Safety Building location. Rather, it would be a permanent, continuously operating, consolidated homeless shelter hub for the entire City of Richmond. The city’s homeless feeding station activities that were once located at Monroe Park, but were pushed out by VCU and the City as part of the Monroe Park redevelopment, is now proposed to be located in Manchester’s residential neighborhood. The homeless of the city would need to travel across the river to Manchester’s residential neighborhood for food, shelter, and services.
  • Since the location of the Community Bainbridge Baptist Church is in a residential area, zoning does not permit using the church complex as a homeless shelter.
  • Mayor Stoney’s Administration is working with Commonwealth Catholic Charities in drafting a Special Use Permit to clear the city’s zoning restrictions, enabling the move of the homeless shelter to Manchester’s residential district. A special, off cycle meeting of city council is being proposed in August to expedite the approval.
  • Commonwealth Catholic Charities intends to house and service the homeless in the school facilities on Bainbridge as well as build a new structure on the basketball courts at the rear of the building to accommodate more beds. Homeless folks could then move into permanent housing on site at the newly constructed building once they graduate from the temporary housing in the proposed shelter at the church school.

But here is the problem. The downtown area of the City of Richmond needs a central homeless facility. Pushing that facility out of downtown and south of the river into Manchester screams of “put it where there will be the least resistance” type of governing. It is a feeble attempt to get it out of the way. And the coliseum plan is a terrible excuse as to why this needs to be done, and done this very minute. It is a poor solution at best. The City is attempting to turn its back on the issue and push the downtrodden across the river, and hoping no one will notice. Leader’s of other cities have been excoriated for giving the homeless bus tickets and moving them out of town before sporting events such as the Super Bowl or World Cup. This sure feels awfully similar. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Manchester is already doing its part to help serve the homeless need with two homeless shelters/centers as it stands. The first is Liberation Family Services, a roughly 17,000 square foot building at 1201 Hull Street serving homeless Veterans which is only two blocks away from the proposed new shelter at 1101 Bainbridge. The second and absolutely massive megasite is the 5+ acre Caritas center which is under renovation and will be located eight tenths of a mile away from the proposed Bainbridge location at 2220 Stockton St. The Caritas site is a sprawling former Phillip Morris tobacco leaf drying plant that will provide a whopping 132,000+ square feet. Adding a third shelter to the mix has the potential to overwhelm Manchester with the city’s entire homeless population. Seems awfully lopsided if you ask us.

This move seems out of character for the Stoney Administration. The City needs to calm down, think this through, and come up with well thought out plans rather than this coliseum induced rush-job. The Richmond 300 plan seems like the perfect forum for that proper planning to occur. However, it sure sounds like the freight train is already leaving the station.

If you would like to learn more about the proposed homeless shelter, there will be a meeting led by Commonwealth Catholic Charities on August 1st, at 1101 Bainbridge Street at 6:30 PM. We encourage you to attend.











44 thoughts on “City Proposes Moving Downtown Homeless Shelter to Manchester to Clear the Way for Coliseum Redevelopment

  1. We will be at the meeting. This is not okay. Not only for the residents of the neighborhood but for the homeless population as well. This is an absolute mess.

  2. Trying to run the homeless out of Richmond proper – out of sight, out of mind.

    I guess monuments, bike lanes and now a coliseum take precedence over ACTUAL PEOPLE in RVA.



  3. This is horrible on so many levels for so many people. What positives are there besides the beautification of downtown? We will be at that meeting and encourage everyone else to be there too.

  4. Homeless people are people too, and they need resources. If you are truly interested in helping the community and not just making money on your ventures then maybe you’d have a different opinion. This post is absolutely tasteless in my opinion.

  5. Let me get this straight: Downtown South Richmond was forgotten by everyone for decades until a bunch of hipsters “discovered” it, decided to revive its old name and open some lofts and coffee shops, patted themselves on the back for being “pioneers,” and now they’re mad that those in need might need a place to live? Oh, OK.

  6. How about the city higher the homeless to clean the city, they are doing this in Huston Texas…I think. Shounds like a great way to get people out of the shelters, helping them find housing, and job training.

  7. Seems like a correlation between this and the recent release of valuations of the manchester area should be investigated. North of the river richmond trying to keep southside down.

  8. Anyone have an email address for Jay Brown? I live two blocks from the proposed location. I support the CCC but think we all could benefit from some information and insight. I’m not able the attend the meeting on the 1st and am hoping they consider having a second.

  9. The key questions about the suitability of the new location are: will the homeless have easy access to public transportation; access to job training and jobs; access to healthcare, behavioral healthcare; access to food services, showers, lockers, computers/phones; access to social services/care management. If the new location does not satify all of these elements, then it is a big dead end that perpetuates homelessness.

  10. Great article! Thank you for sharing and informing residence in the area as many are unaware of this matter. As a resident of 10 years and a mother of two young children, I feel our neighborhood does its fair share in helping the less fortunate. We have two shelters already in place, The Healing Place, numerous assisted living facilities and an abundant amount of subsidized housing. Manchester has welcomed all of these; however, adding the city’s central homeless facility (estimated to house 300 people) smack dab in the middle of the residential neighborhood will really unbalance matters. It just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. The neighborhood is not equipped to aid for so many more nor provide the resources they need, there isn’t even a grocery store in the area. Moving the homeless away from their programs, clinics and other resources they use daily to have them spend their days walking for hours is an injustice. Yes, the city offered to provide free bus passes, but is the really the answer? The new bus route on Bainbridge added one block from the proposed site, is it an improvement to GRTC’s routes or a merely a direct route to the shelter? Is this a done deal already?
    Many have made comments regarding the “developers” and “pearl holding home owners” being stuck up for not wanting the shelter to happen but what about the city/Mayor for pushing the homeless out? Do we really need a new coliseum to hold event time to time and end up another empty lot in the years to come – and is that the main reason this is happening? Manchester isn’t unsupportive, we are concerned for the realistic outcome of our neighborhood we love, as well as the logistics of the homeless’ services.

  11. (Mayor Stoney email) (Councilwoman Robertson email)

    Manchester residents, feel free to contact the above individuals to let them know the the difference between a homeless shelter located in the middle of zero houses and no families and a residential neighborhood. And while you’re at it, ask why we have to get stared down by and step over the left behind trash of the current homeless population under the Manchester Bridge.

  12. We residents of the City need more than a week to understand and comment on the City’s excelerated proposal to move the center-city cold weather homeless shelter to a former church in Manchester at 11th and Bainbridge, and expand shelter services year round. Homeless users need an opportunity to provide input too.

  13. We residents need more time to consider the proposal, and the City needs to provide the neighnorhoods with more information. Please take a moment to email the elected with your opinion and request they postpone the meeting so kore residents know about it.

  14. A massive commercial operation does not belong in a residential neighborhood. There is a reason that zoning doesn’t permit massive commercial operations in the middle of residential neighborhoods. This is bad for the homeless and bad for Manchester.

  15. Wow, just when I thought Mayor Stoney was done with colossal blunders, here he goes again. I wonder what it would be like to have leadership with vision sufficient to extend beyond 2 square miles of downtown and encompass more than yet another venue space destined for lackluster patronage at best. Next Mayor – now please!

  16. I think the gentleman at the nmeeting had a good point about location. I live on Perry. I wouldn’t be opposed to. Partnering with sacred Heart Cathedral further up Perry.

  17. I live 3 blocks from the “notorious” Jones & Jones facility. That didn’t stop us from buying into the neighborhood. Giving a Jone’s resident some money, a hug, asking their name, going there to feed them is a blessing. I ask you this one question :Who is your brother or sister?

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