RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond’s plans for a shelter with beds and 24/7 services for those experiencing homelessness have hit a roadblock that could jeopardize the city’s goal of having a facility ready when cold weather hits the region.

The nonprofit group Commonwealth Catholic Charities (CCC) received funding to renovate its facility at 809 Oliver Hill Way to include a year-round shelter equipped with up to 75 emergency beds and 24/7 access to showers, meal service, storage and other services.

But CCC said delays that would have prevented the facility from being finished by the cold-weather season drove them to give the money back to the city, a decision first reported by the Richmond Free Press.

“Despite our very best efforts, extended delays made it impossible to complete the project in time for the cold weather season,” Jennifer Cunningham, vice president of mission advancement at CCC, said in an email to 8News. “Given the urgency of finding a space for use this winter, we released the funds committed to the renovation project back to the city so a suitable alternative can be found.”

CCC did not share the specific delays the project faced, but Jim Nolan, a spokesperson for Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s office, told 8News the nonprofit did not receive any bids from firms for the renovation work and was not able to meet its obligations to the city to have the facility ready by the fall as a result.

Nolan added that Richmond still aims to have a facility open by Oct. 1, when the city’s emergency cold-weather shelter program begins, and city officials are reviewing potential options.

“We are looking for alternative solutions and locations that are zoned to allow emergency housing by right,” Nolan wrote in an email. “Those zoning districts are B3, M1 and M2.”

Richmond has sought a long-term solution to accommodate those experiencing homelessness, especially during frigid temperatures and inclement weather.

The city awarded CCC, a member of the Greater Richmond Continuum of Care (GRCOC), two contracts totaling nearly $1.8 million, one for the renovation project and another for operating the city’s shelter last winter at the Quality Inn on Arthur Ashe Boulevard.

Data from the city shows that an average of 123 individuals were served each month under the cold-weather shelter program from November to mid-April, including 1,158 in total. The rate of those experiencing homelessness in the Richmond region in January was higher than the rate before the pandemic, according to a federally-mandated point in time (PIT) count conducted by Homeward.

The January 2022 PIT count from Homeward shows a 35% rate increase compared to 2020, but there was a decline from January 2021.

“A primary reason for the decline in homelessness from January 2021 was increased funding for Greater Richmond Continuum of Care (GRCoC) partner agencies and expanded shelter capacity,” Homeward wrote in a release accompanying the 2022 PIT count. “These added resources allow agencies to provide more services and transition clients to more stable housing options.”

CCC is waiting to be reimbursed for the cold weather shelter contract that wrapped up in April, Cunningham said, but the nonprofit group “did not request reimbursement for any expenses related to the renovation project.”  

While the city seeks another solution, CCC says it is prepared to oversee a shelter in Richmond when another site is found.

“As a member of the GRCOC, CCC remains committed to providing urgently needed services to move our neighbors from the streets and into permanent housing,” Cunningham said. “We remain open to operating the inclement weather shelter in partnership with the city when an alternative location is identified.”