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Charlottesville City Manager asks City Council to acquire properties for homeless services

The properties are located just south of the downtown mall

<p>Sanders asked the Council to allocate approximately $4 million — from federal funds given to the City of Charlottesville through the <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/american-rescue-plan/"><u>American Rescue Plan Act</u></a> — for the acquisition of these properties.</p>

Sanders asked the Council to allocate approximately $4 million — from federal funds given to the City of Charlottesville through the American Rescue Plan Act — for the acquisition of these properties.

Charlottesville City Manager Samuel Sanders Jr. proposed to the Charlottesville City Council the acquisition of the two adjacent properties near downtown at 405 Avon St. and 405 Levy Ave. at their bi-weekly meeting Jan. 22. Sanders asked the Council to buy this land for redevelopment for homeless services to support the local and regional unhoused population.

Sanders asked the Council to allocate approximately $4 million — from federal funds given to the City of Charlottesville through the American Rescue Plan Act — for the acquisition of these properties.

There is currently very limited shelter for homeless individuals available year-round in the region. People and Congregations Engaged in Ministry, a grassroot nonprofit devoted to helping unhoused people, partners with local churches to provide shelter to unhoused residents, however this program only runs in the fall and winter. 

The Salvation Army also offers shelter, but it only has 58 beds available, meaning it is only able to serve a fraction of the estimated homeless population of 260 individuals in the City as of 2022.

A large tent encampment in October demonstrated a need for more shelters in Charlottesville. Following a lift on Market Street Park’s closing time, an estimated 30 tents and over 50 unhoused people amassed in the park to settle there overnight. The curfew was reinstated on Oct. 21 due to an early opening of PACEM housing and open beds at the Salvation Army. 

Sanders said that the main goal right now is the mere purchase of the sites. In an interview with The Cavalier Daily, Sanders said that he and those working with him would be able to study and gauge how to best use the land to support homeless residents if the property was purchased.

“Before I determine what we can do, I need to figure out what we need to do,” Sanders said. “I have an internal staff group meeting, and they're doing some evaluations to then be able to come back to me with the recommendation of next steps.”

Sanders listed multiple reasons why he was drawn to this site in particular, including the proximity of the properties to the downtown mall and the higher demand for homeless services in this area, like the Haven which is a day shelter that offers housing support. 

Sanders also mentioned at the Monday meeting potential engagement with surrounding counties, such as Albemarle, to enhance the overall effort to combat homelessness.

“The conversation that I’m engaged in right now is an attempt to make this a regional response because we believe that our homelessness concerns are tied to the region,” Sanders said. “The idea would be that we could get [Albemarle County] to engage with us.”

Charlottesville City Council member Michael Payne also said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily that any form of engagement with neighboring counties would be beneficial for the City, as it would allow the Council to expand its efforts to provide shelter to unhoused individuals.

“I definitely think as much regional collaboration as we can have is hugely positive. I would hope to see cooperation around funding for whatever is ultimately built on site,” Payne said. “The coordination will just allow us to have the biggest impact possible.”

Payne also said that if the site is purchased, the Council can then begin the process of conducting studies and planning construction; however, that the entire process would take time before tangible progress is seen.

“I would hope that the assessment of regional homelessness needs as well as the feasibility study for constructing a shelter could begin sometime after purchase, within a month or two,” Payne said. “It's hard to predict exactly what an early construction completion date might be, but there's no question that it would be at least several years out.”

The Charlottesville City Council will vote on whether to purchase the properties at their next meeting Feb. 5.

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