City deal to increase homeless services falls through cracks

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)–A city partnership with a local nonprofit seems to have fallen through the cracks.

“It’s a mess,” said councilman Marty Jewell.
 
That’s Jewell’s take on the situation that involves a former city leader’s agreement with the Freedom House. He and several other council members are reacting to a recent email sent to Richmond leaders that claims the city isn’t making good on a verbal agreement.

“From February to now something more should have happened,” said Charles Samuels.

The email sent this week came from Melba Gibbs, Executive Director of the Freedom House, a nonprofit that provides an array of services for Richmond’s hungry and homeless population.

Gibbs wrote that last February she began talks with former Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Carolyn Graham, discussing a deal where the city would lease space from the Freedom House to provide a variety of social services.

The monthly lease would cost the city $7,000.

“Promises have been made and services that were promised have not materialized,” said Jewell.

Gibbs says that Graham first set the city’s move in date for July and that never happened.  Then she claims Graham moved the date to September but that never happened either.  Gibbs claims in August one payment of $7000 dollars was made to the Freedom House but there hasn’t been another since.

“The fact that the Freedom House was given some money indicates that the administration wanted this to happen,” said Samuels. 
 
While a lease was never signed and the city hasn’t ever moved in to the space, because the Freedom House leadership expected them too, the space hasn’t been rented it out to other parties.  Now Gibbs tells city leaders they’re stuck between a rock and a very hard place.

“It’s not how we want to treat our partners and freedom house is our partner,” said Jewell.

Jewell says he spoke to Richmond CAO Byron Marshall by phone Monday night about the email.  Jewell claims Marshall vowed to get quick answers and reach out to the Freedom House with the information.