Richmond housing hits ‘crisis point’ as funds arrive to help homelessness

Richmond housing hits ‘crisis point’ as funds arrive to help homelessness

RICHMOND, Va. — Almost $4.5 million in federal grant money is coming to the Greater Richmond region in an effort to combat and prevent youth homelessness.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded the Greater Richmond Continuum of Care $4,478,877 as part of its Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program.

Homeward, a housing advocacy nonprofit that works with regional partners, applied for the federal funds earlier this year. The Greater Richmond region is one of about 17 communities across the country awarded some of the $84 million in federal grant money.

Homeward’s Youth Action Board will be leading the process on financial planning, speaking with area youth who may be experiencing an insecure housing situation, or could be at risk of experiencing homelessness.

“There are a lot of accountability measures so we can really look and see, are we meeting the need? Are the people who need our help the most getting it? And what’s the impact? We use that data and input over and over to really ensure that our response is making a difference and helping people find stable housing,” Homeward’s Executive Director Kelly King Horne said.

According to Point-In-Time (PIT) data Homeward collected earlier in July, there was an overall decline in homelessness compared to 2021 numbers, but the reason for that decline may be due to planned closures of pandemic-related shelter programs, despite the need for housing continuing.

HUD officials say the funding will take a coordinated community approach, by designing and implementing projects like youth housing navigators, joint transitional and rapid rehousing projects, and permanent supportive housing for youth.

PIT data suggests about 7% of those experiencing homelessness in the region, which covers Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico, and Hanover, are between the ages of 18-24.

Horne said this funding comes at a critical time.

“I have been at Homeward for 19 years, and this is one of the most challenging housing markets we have ever seen. So, vacancies are going down and rents are going up, and we haven’t added to the stock of deeply affordable housing,” Horne said. “We’re at a crisis point.”

Shiloh Tillman, who experienced homelessness firsthand, now sits on the Youth Action Board.

“I struggled in numerous ways, physically, mentally, spiritually,” Tillman said. “It’s great to see something great, out of the last couple of years. The pandemic really set us back but it also increased homelessness.”

Tillman said she’s excited about the funding and what it may bring.

“I just wish I could do better for the community so that no one has to endure what I have,” Tillman said.

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