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Petersburg scrambles to get help for homeless after shelter closes

PETERSBURG, Va. – The Petersburg Salvation Army will shutter its shelter after years of operating in a deficit.

The cost of operating the shelter doesn't even come close to what the area Salvation Army takes in from donations, leadership said.

So after, 20 years of operation, the Salvation Army has decided December 31 will be the men's shelters last day.

Closing the doors may benefit other services offered by the Salvation Army.

"This weather is getting ready to go down to 20 some degree's, it's not going to be fun,” said Charles "Ray Ray" Pond, homeless the past 18 years says.

Charles Pond said he prefers the streets to a shelter, but regardless, he is surprised to hear the doors to the men's shelter will close for good.

The shelter has operated for 20 years

"You've got to have your sleeping bags, you've got to have friends,” he said.

The decision to close the doors didn't come easy.

“Over the years, the Salvation Army has struggled to find donors in the tri city area, to really step out and support the shelter,” said Capt. Donald Dohmann, Salvation Army area commander.

He said it costs $380,000 a year to keep the doors to the shelter open, and that the bottom line has been in red ink every year.

"Just for the Tri-cities service area, we're facing a $263,000 budget deficit,” Dohmann said.

The building is leased from the city for just a dollar a year, but last year alone, the organization spent $180,000 in repairs to the building.
And after 20 years, Dohmann said the rising costs and dwindling donations have simply taken their toll.

"It really jeopardizes the other services that we provide in the Petersburg, Hopewell, Tri-cities area,” Dohmann.

The decision caught Petersburg officals by surprise. They said they didn’t learn of the shelter’s fate until Oct. 30.

"This was not our decision, it was there's it was a financial decision,” said Aretha Ferrell-Benvaides, Petersburg City Manager.

Now the city is scrambling to find alternatives for the cold months of early 2018.

"Our responsibility is to ensure that our residents have a safe place in winter months that they can stay, sleep and be taken care of,” Ferrell-Benvaides said.

That effort is currently centered around the churches.