Who Can Help: An Overview of Richmond’s Resources for the Homeless

The Richmond area has many groups working to help the homeless: Some serve meals, others offer shelter and a number provide health care or counseling. Here’s a breakdown of who’s doing what and how to find them.

Editor’s note: The following feature is the latest in a seven-part series on homelessness in Richmond written by students taking part in “Reporting for Print and Web,” an undergraduate journalism course led by by Jeff South, Associate Professor at VCU’s School of Mass Communications. Check back weekly for future installments.

Homelessness does not have just one cause. It can be triggered by many different life circumstances – from mental illness and substance abuse to unemployment and divorce.

The Richmond area has many groups working to help the homeless: Some serve meals, others offer shelter and a number provide health care or counseling.

“There are a lot of agencies involved, but there are 10 to 12 core agencies,” said Kelly King Horne, executive director of the nonprofit group Homeward. “One thing that makes it work in Richmond is that we have some structure around the network of service providers, and they work really well together.”

Homeward is an umbrella agency that coordinates the efforts of the groups trying to help the homeless in the Richmond region. Homeward collects data about homeless people and develops plans for serving them.

“Every other month, there are meetings of the Executive Directors’ Network, where we share information, connect with one another and get updated on certain issues,” Horne said. “A smaller group comprised of representatives from the 12 largest agencies – the Service Provider Leadership Council – meets during the intervening months to give more direct input to Homeward.”

While Richmond’s system is good, Horne says it has some gaps:

  • The needs of un-sheltered individuals are hard to address.
  • Substance abuse services specifically for homeless women are lacking.
  • There are never enough mental health services for the homeless.
  • Private-sector groups are not connected to their counterparts in the public sector.

Homeward tries to make the voices of the homeless heard and see what services they need. The organization does this by gathering data twice a year as part of a point-in-time count and survey.

“It’s understanding what families with children need, what people with addiction need, what people as ex-criminal offenders need, and the list goes on,” Horne said. “Each nonprofit agency tends to have a board member who was formerly homeless, and a staff member who was hired during or after recovery, or maybe they have a resident council; different agencies have different ways of addressing that.”

As agencies better comprehend how to address homelessness, Horne said new questions arise: What is the best way to engage passionate individuals in the community with helping to solve the problem?

How do we as a community welcome former homeless people into our neighborhoods and provide the supportive network that they need to maintain stability?

Homeward and other homeless support agencies are trying to answer those questions for the Richmond area.

Navigating Richmond’s Homeless Support System

Many different agencies are trying to help homeless people in the Richmond area. So many, in fact, that the coordinating agency for the groups, Homeward, has created a “system map.”

The map categorizes the various agencies and shows how they work together. You can find a link to the map on the left side of Homeward’s home page, www.homewardva.org.

Here is an overview of the system map, including the agencies in each category:

  • Permanent Supportive Housing – Permanent housing for people who need long-term housing connected to on-going support services: Virginia Supportive Housing, New Clay House, James River Apartments, Stratford House, TBI Homes (Traumatic Brain Injury).

In addition to these categories, the map lists groups that identify or provide information to people who are homeless, are at risk of homelessness and those who need shelter:

Operation HOPE – Richmond Police Department, McGuire Veterans Hospital, Daily Planet, Local Departments of Social Services (Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico, and Richmond), 211 Virginia (a hotline that can be called 24 hours a day providing information and referrals for health and human services).

For more information online, see:

Previous features in this series:

All articles and photos featured in this series are being published with the permission of Jeffrey South, Associate Professor, School of Mass Communications, Virginia Commonwealth University.

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Bryan Nolde

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