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Richmond City Councilman Says He Will Stop Salvation Army Shelter Relocation

Richmond City Council Vice President Chris Hilbert says he has lined up the necessary votes to kill the Salvation Army’s planned move from Downtown to Northside.

In April, the Salvation Army of Central Virginia filed for a special use permit to move their headquarters and homeless shelter to 1900 Chamberlayne Avenue. The location is the former home of Eternity Church and its just blocks from Virginia Union University and the Chamberlayne Industrial Center. The Salvation Army has been located at 2 West Grace St. since the early 1970s.

Matt Pochily, the Salvation Army’s development director, said moving to Northside would increase their number of available beds from 55 to 97.

“The opportunity that that property holds is an opportunity for growth for the Salvation Army and growth of service to the community who faces emergency housing crises,” he said. 

Pochily said the move would also allow them to bring their shelter, headquarters and case management resources under one roof.

But some residents and business owners feel the move could increase the number of people wandering the streets of Northside and exacerbate the crime problem. Earlier this year, members of the Chamberlayne Industrial Center Association voted to oppose the project.

Richmond City Council Member Christ Hilbert, who represents Northside, said he is “adamantly opposed” to the project. He said he’s concerned the move could jeopardize the progress that has been made to clean up that area.

“We saw some positive things happening on Chamberlayne Avenue, but recently we’ve had a spike in drug activity as well as prostitution,” he said. “I’m not sure that’s the best place to put it.”

For their part, Salvation Army officials say they plan to hire security and housing monitors to cut down on people wandering in the surrounding neighborhoods. Pochily said having more case management services in-house will also mean their clients spending more daytime hours in the facility.

Another concern voiced by Hilbert and the civic association is the potential for the site to host the city’s cold weather overflow shelter. The Salvation Army suggested in their permit application that they would be open to the possibility. Hilbert said that could result in even more homeless people coming into the area during winter.

Richmond officials have struggled to find a permanent home for its cold weather shelter. Last year, Commonwealth Catholic Charities faced a similar community backlash when it wanted to build a new homeless shelter in Manchester. Catholic Charities has still not found a site to open its permanent shelter.

Hilbert said there is no wiggle room on his opposition to the Northside project and suggested the Salvation Army find another location. The Salvation Army, however, is not backing down. The non-profit is continuing to work with community leaders in Northside to find a compromise.