Busy Richmond park is closing; how you can help people in need

RICHMOND, Va. – Some people are wondering what will happen to the several dozen homeless people who frequent Monroe Park in Richmond when it closes for a months-long renovation starting Monday.

"It's a shame, these folks depend on this park,” said Mickey Moore with Southside Church of the Nazarene.

Moore has been coming to Monroe Park for more than 14 years.

"We bring food for the homeless," he said. "And we also bring them clothing, boots, blankets and those types of things."

Mickey Moore

Mickey Moore

For decades the park has been a spot where homeless and others in shelters gather for food and items they can't afford.

"If you come long enough you can fill your house,” Elamae Sexton said.

Sexton isn't homeless anymore, but she said she still comes here for certain goods.

"I get things I need for my apartment. Blankets, clothes,” Sexton said.

Monroe Park will be blocked off Monday when crews get started on a $6 million renovation project. They'll upgrade underground sewer, gas, water an electrical systems.

"This park has a long history and has always served as an important hub in our city," Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones. "Working in partnership with the Monroe Park Conservancy group and VCU to restore the park’s luster is an opportunity that we’ve embraced with great enthusiasm. We thank all of those contributing to help us reach our goal for the park’s restoration, building on our efforts to provide beautiful open and sustainable spaces that improve Richmond communities."

The first five-week phase of construction will focus on arbor care. Park light poles and fixtures will be removed, stored and recycled in other parks. Park benches will be removed and saved.

When the 8-acre park reopens, it will be fully sustainable, with a goal of mitigating water runoff, and will include the installation of LED lighting and native plants.

“Monroe Park will continue to be a place that is welcoming to everyone — a green, urban living room” said Alice Massie, president of the Monroe Park Conservancy that has led the renovation effort.

But in the meantime what will the homeless people do?

"Whether it'd be out in the outdoors or not, it's still a place that they call home,” said Wanda Glaud, who was out at the park handing out fruit.

They tell CBS 6 they plan on moving a few blocks away to Abner Clay Park off Leigh Street and Brook Road.

"They're just moving somewhere else, ain’t nothing going to change. Just a new location,” Sexton said.

The project could last up to 18 months, and some are concerned about moving to Adner Clay Park, where there aren’t any toilets, water fountains, benches or gazebos.

"We're going to go there, that's the plan,” said Moore.

Moore and others who serve the homeless plan on following the crowd to continue to help.

"Who knows that's going to happen to these folks where they're going to get their food from….we don't know that yet.  It's an unknown. The city hasn't provided any resolution to it for them and neither has VCU. So we just don't know,” Moore said.

Massie said she has been out in Monroe Park for months spreading the word about the closure and helping homeless people find permanent housing or shelters. She's also trying to let those who provide services know that there are ways they can still help once the park closes.

She says organizations that support the homeless, including Homeward and the United Way. They are urging those interested in providing food or clothing to the homeless or those in need of food or clothing to call 2-1-1 for assistance while the park is closed.

Click here to learn more about the project.