Today’s Richmond Times Dispatch had an article on the front page under the fold about the current controversy over the plans to renovate Monroe Park. The article quotes from the Food Not Bombs statement of demands in regards to the proposed renovations. It also quotes 2nd district city councilman Charles Samuels and gives some information about the meeting this Thursday from 5 to 7pm at Richmond Carillon auditorium at Dogwood Dell, 1300 Blanton Ave. Anyone who needs help getting to the meeting from Monroe Park, or can offer rides should meet at the corner of Main and Belvidere at 4:30 and 4:45 this Thursday the 4th. Charles Samuels is asking people to register by today at (804) 646-6532 or Jan.Girardi@
richmondgov.com. We will be offering rides to anyone and everyone, regardless of registration status. The more voices the better!
Anyone interested in making signs, banners, fliers etc. about this issue is invited to come to craft night during open hours this Wednesday at the Wingnut from 7-10 on Wednesday the 3rd. The Wingnut is located at 2005 Barton Avenue and you can call 804 303 5449 for more information. Anyone with sign making supplies to donate is encouraged to bring them by at any time.

Here is the article:
Monroe Park plan spurs debate over services for homeless
Monroe Park

Monroe Park forum
Richmond City Councilman Charles R. Samuels has called a meeting on Monroe Park and homeless services
When: Thursday, 5 to 7 p.m.
Where: Richmond Carillon auditorium at Dogwood Dell, 1300 Blanton Ave.
Registration: requested by today at (804) 646-6532 or Jan.Girardi@
richmondgov.com

By WILL JONES | TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Published: November 01, 2010
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nowBuzz up! Richmond, Va. —

The prospect that Monroe Park could be closed temporarily for improvements is sparking debate over the feeding programs and other homeless services that are provided there.

City Councilman Charles R. Samuels, whose 2nd District includes the historic 8-acre park by Virginia Commonwealth University, is organizing a meeting Thursday to discuss ways the community can serve the needs of homeless residents if and when the park is closed.

With such an emotionally charged issue, Samuels is planning a series of small-group discussions rather than speeches. Homeward, a nonprofit coordinating and planning agency for homeless services in the area, will facilitate the meeting.

“It’s just a chance for people to sit down and talk about ways to make sure the services are available for the people who need them,” he said.

The Richmond area has 1,012 homeless residents, including 152 who are “unsheltered,” based on Homeward’s count last January. That marks a decrease from 1,150 homeless residents, with 184 unsheltered, in 2009.

Despite claims to the contrary, Samuels said the park-renovation project is not designed to dissuade feedings or other homeless-outreach efforts by faith-based groups and other community organizations.

“We have no intention of saying people can’t come on public property,” he said.

A $6.2 million plan to renovate Monroe Park was outlined in September by the city’s Monroe Park Advisory Council. A timeline for the project has not been determined, because funding has not been secured.

However, the group Food Not Bombs, which has been providing meals in Monroe Park for 16 years, has called the proposed upgrade an attack on the homeless and others who spend time there.

“Food Not Bombs will resist all attempts to shut the entire park down for any amount of time,” the group says in a statement on its website.

“This is a congregating place for students, families, homeless individuals, activists, folks who like to play Frisbee, and various other people who currently enjoy the dynamic of the park. The only people currently not represented in the day-to-day activity of the park are affluent white folks, and the proposed renovations are clearly designed with only them in mind.”

The group has sent city officials a list of demands for the renovation project, which include keeping at least 2 acres open at all times and no restrictions on the distribution of food and clothing.

Kelly King Horne, executive director of Homeward, said she hopes the interest and emotion around the issues at Monroe Park can be channeled to help match the community’s needs for homeless services with volunteer and nonprofit resources.

She also called for a stronger bridge between “safety-net” services, such as free meals, and broader services, such as job training and legal assistance.

For faith-based and other groups that provide the meals, “I think the question should be, how can we help them, being in ministry . . . meet a need,” she said.

Contact Will Jones at (804) 649-6911 or wjones@timesdispatch.com.

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