RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Sitting in a cramped car just long enough to try to cool off in the vehicle’s AC before going back into the heat until the next break. This has been the weeks-long routine for Angela Thrower and her young children.
The mom said she’s tried but failed to find available beds in any area homeless shelters after she lost her housing about two weeks ago.
“I wanna provide a home for my kids. That’s all that I want. I just want one chance,” she said in an interview on Thursday. “Mentally, like I really need a break.”
As Thrower spoke with 8News, her youngest child cried in the back seat.
“We’ve been sleeping in our car for going on two weeks now,” she said.
Thrower was convicted of embezzlement about seven years ago.
“I did my time. You live and you learn,” she said. “Yes, I was young and I was stupid and made a very stupid mistake but I feel like my kids shouldn’t have to suffer because of a mistake that I made.”
The mom thinks her felony conviction is what’s making her search for housing so difficult. Most of the time, looking for places to live since she was released end in “denial, denial, denial,” she said.
Organizations like Housing Families First in Henrico said for the last decade at least, one could never simply walk into a shelter and get a bed right away. There’s always been a process. However, that process has been longer for people seeking help during the pandemic.
Thrower said she’s done everything she can think of to find housing after she was asked to leave a home she’d lived in for about a year.
“I’ve called every community line, resource line that you can think of and I’m still back at square one,” she told 8News.
Thrower said she’s made it on to a few waitlists for open beds. However, Homeward, an organization that tracks the data for Richmond and seven surrounding counties, said the movement on those lists has slowed down during the pandemic.
A representative from Homeward told 8News people already in shelters are staying longer because available affordable housing is so slim. Fewer people out means fewer new people can come in.
Thrower said these past two weeks have been the most challenging in her life so far. Calling mental health crisis lines is also part of her new routine.
“I’m trying to stay strong. I promise you I am but so much weight is on my shoulders,” she said through tears. “I don’t want to sit there and throw away the towel but I really feel like that’s what it’s going to end up coming to.”
Comparing pre-pandemic times to the heat of COVID, Homeward says 50 percent more people in our area are homeless. Local shelters tell 8News applicants are prioritized based on how vulnerable they are.
“I shouldn’t have to be sitting here, crying, stressing and figuring things out when there’s a whole resource line,” she said. “They’re telling me I’m not a priority. What makes me a priority?”
So what’s the solution to this lack of available beds?
“The solution to homelessness is housing,” said Beth Vann-Turnbull, with Housing Families First. “While there may be opportunities to increase the number of crisis shelter beds in the region, the ultimate solution is more truly affordable housing (for those making close to minimum wage) and wages that enable people to pay market rental rates.”
The mom said she was also denied by RRHA. 8News reached out to RRHA for comment and was told they will get back to us.
We also reached out to Mayor Levar Stoney’s office about Thrower’s situation.
“Our city and regional safety net of service providers offers assistance and support to struggling individuals and families, and we’ll do everything we can to assist those in need,” his spokesperson said in a statement.
If you are concerned about someone sleeping outdoors who may need help, you are welcome to fill out this form.
8News is providing Thrower with the names and phone numbers of people reaching out to help her.
This is a developing story. Stay with 8News for updates.