Sixteen percent fewer people in Richmond homeless, but the battle is not over…

Posted on September 7, 2010

I have asked Koury Wilson, one of VSH’s fall communications internship candidates, to write this week’s blog. Thanks, Alice

I awoke one morning to News 8 airing recent statistics stating that the number of individuals living on the streets in Richmond has decreased by 16 percent despite the dismal economy.

As a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, it’s not unusual to see many homeless men and women on campus, particularly in Monroe Park.  In many ways, the sight has become synonymous with the VCU experience itself.  It’s also not unusual to hear insensitive comments from students about the prevalence of “the homeless,” but the reality is that these people are struggling to survive and there are many more on the verge of losing their homes.

According to The United Way, “Even though the number of homeless is down, the need in the community for social services and assistance has increased.” So clearly, the battle is not over and we still have a long way to go. With Richmond’s financial crisis and a change of legislature, the state government has made budget cuts to many local agencies and services which cater to these needs.  While 2010 statistics show improvement, with less money for social programs, it’s uncertain how long the city will maintain this decline.  Chances are…not too long.

Virginia Supportive Housing is the only not-for-profit organization in Central Virginia that takes an integrated approach to ending homelessness…and it’s an approach that works. But the current need far exceeds current resources.

Maybe you’re like me and you don’t have the means to financially help every person you come across. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help. I can’t stress enough the importance of two “Vs”: Volunteerism and Voting.

Support VSH with the gift of your time! This non-profit has many meaningful opportunities available, ranging from beautifying its supportive properties, to engaging with clients, to influencing how the message is spread. When you volunteer, you’re not only making a difference in the lives of other people in need, but you’re also benefiting from the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that giving back provides. It’s a win-win.

However, getting involved doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be physically present.  While your involvement is strongly encouraged, donations can make a world of difference to the organization…and a life.  Your donations can help support current services and also assist in developing new services so that more individuals and families can get off the streets.

Homelessness can occur to anyone.  Whether you’re facing the threat of homelessness yourself or are simply interested in learning more about the issue, please register and take part the mid-term elections occurring on Nov. 2.  This is a problem that transcends party lines; all of our elected officials will have a say in how the state budget is distributed and what services need the most attention.  Virginia Supportive Housing counts on the state legislature to help move its mission forward by providing adequate funding.  By exercising your civic duty, you can directly contribute to VSH’s mission to reduce homelessness in Virginia.  So please participate in our democratic system this fall and contribute your time, talents, voice, and resources to put an end to homelessness in our commonwealth. Your support WILL make a difference!

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