Did you know…that Monroe Park will be undergoing a $6.2 million renovation next spring?

Posted on September 14, 2010

I have asked Cristina Wood, one of VSH’s fall communications interns, to write this week’s blog. Thanks, Alice

According to a recent article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Monroe Park will be undergoing a $6.2 million renovation in the spring of 2011. The park, central to both the downtown area and to the Virginia Commonwealth University campus, is a favorite of students and city-dwellers alike. With the proposed introduction of a café, outdoor stage, carousel and completely revamped seating areas and scenery, the space will be buzzing compared to its current dull state.

But what does this mean for the homeless individuals who frequently take refuge there? It’s not uncommon for urban renovation projects like this to result in negative consequences for people who are homeless, and to further escalate the criminalization of homelessness. From this perspective, homeless populations are seen as more of an “eyesore” and a nuisance than as human beings who need housing and help.

Alice McGuire Massie, president of the Monroe Park Advisory Council, the body officially in charge of the renovation project, was quoted in the RTD article as saying that “the renovation should address concerns about park safety but is not intended to move the homeless elsewhere.” Massie also emphasized that “the renovation is for anybody and everybody,” and the goal is to “raise the quality of life to a higher standard.”

However, in the same article, City Councilman Charles R. Samuels said he’s trying to encourage feeding and other homeless-outreach efforts to be redirected to the Conrad Center in Richmond’s East End or to other nonprofit service locations.

This may be the beginning of the end of the homeless population in Monroe Park. Once construction begins, people who are homeless will be forced to relocate at least temporarily. And once the new park has opened to the public, it’s likely that they will be “strenuously discouraged” from returning.

I’m all for the renovation of Monroe Park. But we all need to make sure that these homeless human beings are not just pushed to the side and forgotten for the sake of cosmetic improvement.

What do you think?

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