Harrisonburg City Council hears update on Homeless Services Center project

Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 10:58 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The City of Harrisonburg purchased more than three acres of land and a 6,730-square-foot building on North Main Street this summer to help the city create its permanent low-barrier shelter for adults experiencing homelessness.

City Council committed a portion of its American Rescue Plan Act funding to this project as the COVID-19 pandemic enhanced the need for a permanent, low-barrier shelter and services. The city paid $700,000 for the property, and it will entail additional costs in the future.

Amy Snider, the Assistant to Harrisonburg’s City Manager, gave City Council an update on what they are temporarily calling the Homeless Services Center.

She explained the goals of the project, which included preserving and renovating as much of the existing structure, providing space for community partners to offer services on-site, and designing the facility in a way that would not limit the opportunity for future addition of transitional housing units and/or permanent supportive housing units on the property.

Preliminary plans for the architect, MTFA Architecture, include sleeping quarters for men and women, along with individual flex rooms, storage facilities, showers, bathrooms, laundry facilities, and a shelter space that can operate every day of the year for up to 100 adults. Of those beds, 75 would be permanent, and 25 would be for colder months.

“We don’t anticipate all of those beds would be filled the day that the door opens. We want to make sure we’re designing the facility to accommodate the future population growth that we know we’re going to have,” Snider said.

Preliminary plans also include a commercial kitchen, dining hall, community room, an outdoor recreation space, and multipurpose rooms for use by service providers and guests.

“There is a great need for this in the community so we are pushing to have sleeping quarters, showers, and bathrooms open by next November, and then the rest of the facility components to be constructed following that with an ideal timeline of September 1, 2024, at the latest,” Snider said.

In the presentation to City Council, Snider said this timeline is dependent on construction bids, and uncontrollable delays, like manufacturing or material delays.

In addition to the low-barrier shelter, the Homeless Services Center would also have a drop-in center facility that would operate during the day. It would provide space for guests to rest, work with community partners, and provide things like water and snacks.

The City of Harrisonburg would need to pay for additional costs like utilities, maintenance of the building and property, and providing washers and dryers. Snider also proposed that City Council redirect up to $100,000 from the Civic and Community Organizations Grant to instead support operations of the Homeless Services Center.

“The advantage of this is by connecting it to the competitive request for proposal rather than just providing it through the grant to support operations, we would be able to commit to more than one year of funding, so it could be a 3-year or 5-year contract with guaranteed funding for the services,” Snider said.

For more information on the Homeless Services Center and updates from the City of Harrisonburg, click here.