This story was published between issues of the newspaper. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes.
Originally published March 16, 2020 to the Virginia Defender Facebook page.
Story and interview by Phil Wilayto. Watch the interview here.
Cathy’s Camp is a tent city created in August 2019 by homeless people in the East End of Richmond, Va. The camp sits right outside the city’s cold weather shelter, which only opens when the temperature drops below 40 degrees – even if it’s raining, snowing or flooding.
There are other tent cities in Richmond, but this one is more visible, right across the street from the city jail. It’s presence draws attention to the city’s housing crisis. Richmond has the second worst rate of evictions in the entire country, and over the past year homelessness has increased by 10 percent. In the midst of this crisis, the Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority is moving to tear down 4,000 public housing apartments where 10,000 of the city’s poorest residents live.
The city government wants to close Cathy’s Camp, but as of March 16 has held off because of sympathetic public opinion. In this interview, camp volunteers Bridget Whitaker Williams and Rhonda Sneed explain how the city, working with local nonprofits, has been moving people from the camp to a hotel that they say is infested with bedbugs.
If the city is able to move all the camp residents to temporary shelter, it will be able to close the camp and rid itself of its public relations problem. But when the people in the hotel rooms are eventually told they must leave, they will be back on the streets – in the middle of the coronavirus crisis. At least in the camp they have tents and access to food, soap and water and support services. It’s a far safer situation than to be on the streets.
The Virginia Defender newspaper, with the blessing of Rhonda Sneed and her Blessing Warriors RVA, is asking everyone to call, text or email Richmond Mayor Lavar Stoney, Human Services Director Reggie Gordon and members of the Richmond City Council and tell them: “Leave Cathy’s Camp alone until permanent housing can be found for all its residents!”
Contact information is below.
Mayor Levar Stoney
Reggie Gordon, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Department of Human Services
Phone: (804) 646-5823
Fax: (804) 646-6035
Members of Richmond City Council