Council holds first reading of $200K to keep Premier Circle shelter open through end of April

First, Council was asked to appropriate $565,000 from the city’s share of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP). That’s part of a larger pot that Councilor Michael Payne alluded to earlier.

“There’s currently about $2.3 million of unallocated ARP money,” said Chris Cullinan, the city’s finance director. 

Council was asked to approve specifics on how to spend that $565,000. This round was mostly intended to purchase items for the city. 

  • $50,000 to hire additional ambassadors through the end of the year to assist with the opening of City Hall 
  • $300,000 to purchase additional Automated External Defibrillators (AED) for city facilities
  • $15,000 to upgrade the city’s  access control badge system for employees
  • $200,000 to continue funding emergency shelter operations at Premier Circle

That latter amount is the city’s share of a $500,000 project to cover the cost the 92-bed, non-congregate Premier Circle Emergency Shelter. That’s a joint initiative of the Blue Ridge Area Coalition for the Homeless, the Piedmont Housing Alliance, and the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation. 

Albemarle is being asked to contribute $200,000 and University of Virginia Health is being asked to contribute $100,000. This would cover operations from January 2023 to April 2023. 

“Long term it is actually going to be developed as permanent supportive housing and affordable housing,” said Anthony Haro of the Blue Ridge Coalition for the Homeless. “That’s the future of the site. Eighty units of permanent supportive housing is going to be developed by Virginia Supportive Housing and then sixty units of multifamily affordable housing will be developed as well by Piedmont Housing Alliance.

Haro said the emergency shelter will remain open until the end of April. The shelter at the former Red Carpet Inn on U.S. 29 is operated by the group People and Congregations Engaged in Ministry, or PACEM.

“What happens for those folks after April,” asked Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook. 

“We’re doing our best to provide case management, transition to housing in the community,” Haro said. “Should that not be available, and housing is very difficult to come by even though we have rental assistance opportunities and housing choice vouchers as well for many of the people at the Premier Circle program.” 

Haro said after April 30 there will be efforts to keep an emergency shelter open for those community members. 

“In May, Virginia Supportive Housing plans to break ground,” Haro said. 

Virginia Supportive Housing is the developer of the 60-unit Crossings at Fourth and Preston which was completed in 2012

“VSH offers on-site supportive services through case managers who help residents stabilize, reclaim their lives and retain their housing,” reads the VSH website on the project.

Haro acknowledged the need for additional emergency shelters and said there is work underway to locate sites for that use. The executive director of PACEM gave an update.

“PACEM has begun very actively to explore what a permanent fixed-site full-year round shelter would look like,” said Jayson Whitehead. “That’s while continuing to run Premier Circle where we have around 70 folks right now.” 

Whitehead said PACEM is also gearing up to operate cold-weather emergency-shelters for the winter. 

Several Councilors said they would like to assist with efforts to create a permanent emergency shelter. 

“I would love to see that and I believe the city, maybe we could partner with IMPACT or whoever to try to figure out something that’s permanent,” said City Councilor Brian Pinkston. 

“I would like to see a true mission center type where you can go in and really get all of the services that they need and not necessarily direct them to a different place,” said Vice Mayor Juandiego Wade. “I think Roanoke has one and other cities have places like that.”

Council held the first reading of this item and it will come back on the consent agenda for the November 7 meeting. 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the October 25, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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