Homeless advocates organizing resources as Monroe Park prepares to close

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Due to upcoming renovations Monroe Park is slated to close in the coming months, leaving many of Richmond’s homeless population without a home.

Richmonder Darrick Walker was once homeless. He said he always found serenity in his favorite spot in the park, surrounded by students and statues.

“It still feels good to come out here especially on a day like today,” said Walker. “I still come out here and see my friends.”

“It is a safe place to come,” said Walker.

But he may soon need to look for another place to relax.

Monroe Park is about to get a badly needed face lift. The public/private non-profit called The Monroe Park Conservancy wants to reinvent the park into an oasis in the middle of the city. When construction begins the park will close for about a year.

Once $3 million is raised by the Conservancy upgrades will begin on the aging sewer lines and electrical wiring.

Sharri Stark, who is homeless, frequents Monroe Park because it is close to her shelter, food pantries and medical care.

“I come out here and sit and eat lunch, sit, talk and laugh,” said Stark. “I don’t know what we’re going to do because we’re going to have to find out somewhere else to be.”

Karen O’Brien with Caritas, the largest provider of homeless services in the Metro Richmond area, said her organization hopes people living on the fringe realize there is a place to turn.

“Maybe we can reach them through social service. Through our points of entry,” said O’Brien. “We want to let them know where they can go get them off the streets permanently.”

Darrick Walker

Darrick Walker

Back at Monroe Park, Darrick Walker shudders at the thought of losing his favorite spot for many months during renovations.

“It is going to be strange not to have the park like it used to be. I just hope they think about the people that come out here every day,” said Walker. “Because this has been a special hub forever.”

So far, the non-profit Monroe Park Conservancy has raised nearly $1.8 million dollars of the $3 million dollars needed to start construction.

Saturday, March 26 community groups will hold a public forum to discuss transferring services elsewhere and other responses to the renovations. The meeting will begin at 2 p.m. at the South edge of Monroe Park.

Monroe Park, 620 W Main St, Richmond, VA