Monroe Park renovations stir emotions

Cordero Wallace

Contributing Writer

VCU and the city of Richmond are taking major steps to give Monroe Park a $6.2 million renovation, which will force the area’s homeless people to relocate.

The renovations will include repaving, reworking grassy areas, electrical wiring, drainage, lighting, seating areas, trash bins and a restaurant or coffee shop.

The plans are to make the park private after the renovations are finished by placing a gate around it.

Therefore, the future renovations, which will cause the homeless people to be relocated to other city areas, has become a growing issue.

“They want the homeless people like me out of Monroe Park,” Tiger Long, a longtime homeless patron of the park, said.  “This has been VCU’s main goal since they obtained the park – to kick us out.”

According to NBC12 reports, the homeless will be forced to relocate to the Conrad Center located on 17th and O Street.

Groups advocating homeless rights like the International Workers of the World have suggested that the location of the Conrad center isn’t conducive to serving Richmond’s homeless population. In a statement, the Richmond chapter of the IWW said, “The Conrad Center is geographically isolated and located in a valley involving steep hills, several miles away from temporary employment agencies, reliable public transportation and other resources. How will those with physical disabilities get to and from the Conrad Center?”

“How can you force homeless people to move from a public park?” Andrew Lamont, another homeless Monroe Park patron, asked. “We engage in activities here. We get fed food here, and I’m not leaving.”

Arms Wide Open Organization co-founders Jennifer Simpson, said the charity feeds the homeless people at Monroe Park every Sunday.

Letters have been written to the Monroe Park Advisory Board, and protesters have been pressuring Richmond to stop relocation of the homeless once renovations begin.

Workers of The World Union group in Richmond have issued several letters regarding the mentally and physically disabled homeless people who will not be able to adapt to these relocations.

Some students said that the behavior of some homeless caused them to refuse to walk through Monroe Park.

“They yell out sexually explicit words, and it’s not acceptable,” VCU student Alycia Clayton said. “Who wants to hear rude and disrespectful remarks yelled across a park at them?”

The homeless have a right that could help them plead their case called the “Squatter’s Rights,” which states that a person occupying a vacant place for 15 years or more can legally lay claim to the place as their own property.

“I come out here to hang with my friends and been doing it for 25 years,” Long said.

Homeless people are being offered beds on first-come, first-serve basis at the Freedom House and Healing Place in Richmond, according to the Virginia Supportive Housing website.

“Homeless people are on the outside looking in, and nobody cares about us ’cause we’re homeless,” Lamont said. “If they were homeless, they would understand how important Monroe Park is to homeless people.”

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2 Comments

  1. It’s INDUSTRIAL Workers of the World, not International. Just sayin. Tis a common mistake you might want to fix. Great article!

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  1. Good coverage of the Monroe Park Renovations | VCU students for a democratic society
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