People in a growing segment of the region’s homeless population will have preference for an affordable apartment through a new partnership.
Homeward, the region’s coordinating agency for homeless services, has partnered with property manager Beacon Communities to place people experiencing homelessness who are 62 or older at its Dominion Place Apartments building. The arrangement will also provide those renters wraparound services through nonprofit Senior Connections and the Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond Health and Wellness Program and Medical Legal Partnership.
“The support services will help people be successful,” said Kelly King Horne, Homeward’s executive director. “If we can take this to scale, it will help with a lot of older adults whose needs aren’t met at homeless shelters.”
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic spiked housing insecurity in the region, affordable housing for seniors was a critical need.
Typically, it could take three to six months to get into one of the 249 apartments at the age- and income-restricted Dominion Place building on West Grace Street, according to Beacon. For prospective tenants with disabilities, the wait can be even longer. Rents there are capped at 30% of a tenant’s monthly income.
As of 2017, roughly three out of five elderly renters in Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico and Hanover were cost-burdened, meaning they spent more than 30% of their monthly income on housing, according to the Partnership for Housing Affordability Regional Housing Framework.
Seniors experiencing homelessness face additional barriers to finding or qualifying for an apartment because of the dearth of affordable apartments. Last year, 125 people over the age of 62 spent at least a night in the region’s pandemic response shelter, according to figures provided by Homeward.
They were among a rising number of people ages 55 and older who have lost their shelter and fallen into homelessness since 2018. The uptick helped fuel the largest single-year surge in homelessness in the region since the Greater Richmond Continuum of Care began tracking the figure in the 1990s.
From January 2020 to January 2021, the number of people experiencing homelessness rose 53%, from 549 to 838 people, according to a federally mandated census conducted twice a year by the Continuum of Care. Figures from a midyear count, conducted last month, have not yet been released.
Outreach workers will help identify people who qualify for the Dominion Place initiative, King Horne said. Homeward will assist them with the application process. Senior Connections and VCU will coordinate wellness support, health care and legal services.
The initiative has earmarked five apartments to start, King Horne said, with a goal of expanding the number within the building, as well as to other existing affordable housing properties in the region.