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Officials: Richmond shelter plans fall through due to lack of developer interest

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Over the past five years, the city has shifted the cold weather shelter across various operators and locations, including 809 Oliver Hill Way. CCC says it could not finish a renovation project there before October.

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A new year-round shelter for people experiencing homelessness is unlikely to open in Richmond this year after no firms bid on a nonprofit group’s request for development proposals, according to city officials.

After accepting $1.8 million from the city last year to renovate its facility at 809 Oliver Hill Way in Shockoe Valley, Catholic Commonwealth Charities says it has returned the money because it could not complete the project before the city resumes its emergency cold-weather shelter program in October.

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“Despite our very best efforts, extended delays made it impossible to complete the project in time for the cold weather season,” said Katie Dillon, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit organization. “Given the urgency of finding a space for use this winter, we released the funds committed to the renovation project back to the city so a suitable alternative can be found.”

Commonwealth Catholic Charities and city officials last year started working on plans to renovate the facility to include as many as 75 emergency beds and 24/7 access to showers, storage of belongings, meal service and on-site case management.

The Richmond Free Press first reported that CCC had returned the money.

Jay Brown, president and CEO of Commonwealth Catholic Charities, talks about the new inclement weather shelter in Shockoe Valley.

The project started running into issues earlier this year, as CCC needed to meet certain federal requirements per funding agreements with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Jim Nolan, a spokesman for the mayor’s office, said Tuesday that Catholic Charities would be unable to meet contractual obligations after it did not receive any bids for the renovation work. Dillon did not provide specific details about the nonprofit’s request for proposals or the delays she mentioned.

“We are looking for alternative solutions and locations that are zoned to allow emergency housing by right,” Nolan said. “The goal is to have a facility available by Oct. 1 — the traditional date that the cold weather shelter would open.”

The city previously contracted the nonprofit group to operate the cold weather shelter out of a hotel ballroom at the Quality Inn on Arthur Ashe Boulevard for the rest of this past season. According to a report from the city Department of Housing and Community Development, the cold weather shelter program served nearly 1,200 individuals from October to mid-April.

The city has shifted the cold weather shelter, which was established by city ordinance, across various locations and operators over the past five years. Officials have struggled to find a permanent location that includes wraparound services for the hundreds of people in the region experiencing homelessness each winter.

Some city leaders have said they would like a year-round shelter open so that those who are homeless can have a place to go when there’s heavy rain or extremely high temperatures.

Dillon said CCC will continue working with the city and the Greater Richmond Continuum of Care, a collective of nonprofits and organizations involved in providing services for people who are homeless.

“As a member of the GRCOC, CCC remains committed to providing urgently needed services to move our neighbors from the streets and into permanent housing,” she said. “We remain open to operating the inclement weather shelter in partnership with the city when an alternative location is identified.”


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