They're inextricably linked: homelessness and the inner city. But only 39 percent of the people who checked into the city's homeless shelters in the last six months listed Richmond as their last address.
More than 60 percent of the city's homeless come from somewhere else, according to Homeward's Central Intake program, which serves as a point of entry for those seeking shelter in metro Richmond.
Central Intake began collecting residency information on the region's homeless population specifically, the location of their last known residence in November 2005. But the most recent fiscal year, July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007, will be the first full year Central Intake has gathered the data.
As of Jan. 1, halfway through the fiscal year, the numbers show that the city's homeless shelters are managing the homeless crisis for the entire metropolitan area.
"We wanted to know where homelessness began," says Kitty Hardt, director of program operations for Central Intake. "In order to serve it well, you need to know where the system breaks down."
The system seems to break down quite a bit in Henrico and Chesterfield counties. Of the 1,151 homeless persons able to supply zip code data to Central Intake, 162 came from Henrico and 103 from Chesterfield. Another 15 came from Hanover and 10 from Goochland. That's a combined 25 percent of homeless from the counties.
Yet very little assistance by way of public funding for homeless services and shelters actually comes from surrounding counties.
CARITAS, which sets up shelters through religious congregations across the region, is perhaps the biggest benefactor of county funds. CARITAS houses 188 people through its various congregations, and this fiscal year received $47,250 from Henrico, $29,400 from Chesterfield and $45,400 from Richmond.
The other shelters typically receive federal funding.
"We talk about it as Richmond's homeless," says Karen Stanley, executive director of CARITAS, but the reality doesn't hold up. "I found two guys living in a shed out behind the Target in Chester."
Melba Gibbs, executive director of Freedom House and Hilliard House, two homeless shelters with a combined 102 beds, says county politicians don't want to recognize that they have a homeless problem.
"They don't think they have homeless that it's only in the city," she says. "I think it's the stereotype of what's out there in the street: The older man, dirty, no teeth, pushing a grocery cart, hasn't had a bath in some time, asking for money. That's not what we deal with on a daily basis."
It's not just the counties. Richmond has long had a reputation for being a homeless destination of sorts. Central Intake registered 44 people from North Carolina, 36 from New York, 28 from Florida. There were six from Texas and one homeless man who last lived in Utah. S