Originally published in the Summer 2020 edition of the Virginia Defender, printed August 14. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in this issue or download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.
By Phil Wilayto
After the Richmond city government tore down Cathy’s Camp, displacing more than 100 formerly homeless people, it promised to house the residents in temporary housing until they could find something more permanent. Camp residents were placed into local hotels and motels, including the Day’s Inn on Midlothian Turnpike, the Diamond Inn on Arthur Ashe Boulevard and the Massad House hotel on North 4th St. in downtown Richmond.
The Defenders, who had been supporting Cathy’s Camp, volunteered to deliver meals to the folks in the hotels, once a week, with the food coming from organizations that are part of the Communities of Care network coordinated by the Homeward organization.
We settled on the 20 or so people staying at the Massad House.
But around April 22, about half those folks were transferred to other hotels, and the meals stopped being available.
After calling Commonwealth Catholic Charities, Homeward and the city jail, whose deputies also had been delivering some meals, this reporter reached Reggie Gordon, Mayor Stoney’s Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Human Services – the guy who had sent the eviction letter to Cathy’s Camp.
After having the situation explained to him, Gordon said he would speak with Kelly King Horne, head of Homeward.
In a few minutes he called back, and said that the people left at the Massad were “not our responsibility.”
Taken aback, I said “They’re your people!”
He said no, they weren’t.
I said some of the folks were having trouble with getting their SSI direct deposits, had no money and now no meals. Gordon said there were churches in the area that served meals. I had already compiled a list of those resources for the people at the Massad, and only two sites were providing evening meals, and only for two nights out of the week.
Gordon suggested the Defenders could provide meals for the people left at the Massad.
So we bought some bread, peanut butter and apples and delivered the bags of food to the hotel. After that, we were able to arrange with Catholic Charities to pick up food once a week from its food pantry and deliver it to the Massad.
The number of people the city is still putting up at the hotel is now down to four. However, Catholic Charities’ food pantry has gone to a biweekly schedule, and in September will resume its former monthly schedule.
Meanwhile, Blessing Warriors, which has also been delivering food to the Massad residents, has offered to provide food for the Defenders’ deliveries. And an old friend of ours who pastors a church in the East End has been sharing sandwiches he gets from a local gas station, which supplements the other food we deliver to the Massad.
This has been a modest effort, but a new project for the Defenders. We took it on because, as far as we’re concerned, the most oppressed are “our responsibility.”
Categories: Community News