A week before Hope Community Center’s homeless shelter was set to shut down, NBC29 and The Daily Progress descended on 341 11th St. NW to document its decline. But some of the homeless weren’t thrilled with the attention.
“I’d rather not be popular and have the city bend some,” says Leo, one of Hope’s “clients.” He works two jobs during the week and sleeps at Hope—but not for long. Like many of its homeless, he is unsure where he will go when the shelter closes on May 28.
“It seems like they’re all giving up,” says a man who goes by New Orleans, another resident. He is bitter and mad at the city and Harold and Josh Bare, the father and son team who run the shelter. For three days and nights, New Orleans and his girlfriend sat on top of their roof in the Ninth Ward until they were rescued from the waters of Hurricane Katrina. The two eventually made their way to Charlottesville, but so far have been stumped for a place to live, and in his case, a place to work.
Josh Bare made sure that City Council was aware of the three dozen people who are left homeless with the closing of the Hope shelter.
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“We will be sleeping on the streets,” he says, his voice rising, a cigarette burning between his fingers.
On May 19, Josh Bare appeared before City Council to bring focus to the uncertain situation for most of Hope’s residents. He was followed by local homeless activist Lynn Weiber, herself a Hope resident. “I would like to thank the city for giving me the opportunity to sleep outside in the great outdoors,” she said sardonically.
The next day, Weiber sat at a table with the rest of the Thomas Jefferson Coalition Against Homelessness (TJACH) in a crowded room that voted to incorporate the loosely organized action group into a nonprofit. With 501(c)3 status, the group could more aggressively seek state and federal grants to take care of the homeless.
As City Councilor Holly Edwards noted, there is plenty of blame to go around for the shelter shutting down. Still, the simple fact is that roughly 35 people will have no place to sleep after May 28.
But the city is exploring what could be a long-term solution. On May 27, Virginia Supportive Housing will give a presentation in the Charlottesville Community Design Center on Single Room Occupancy (SRO) housing, the latest movement in homeless services.
In coordination with Virginia Supportive Housing, TJACH and the city will develop and manage a facility that would potentially offer 60 efficiency apartments that are available at low cost to the so-called chronic homeless, “with on-site support services and security to help keep the SRO residents stable in their housing.”
In theory, SROs sound great as they will likely go to the disabled and veterans, getting the most needy off the streets.
Yet SROs are also years off and tens of thousands, if not millions, of dollars away. In the meantime, look for more people peeing in Lee Park and sleeping under Charlottesville’s bridges.
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