Community forum discusses future of homelessness and affordable housing in Roanoke

Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 11:14 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The American Rescue Plan Act set aside $5 billion for states across the country to address homelessness and come up with plans for access to affordable housing. $2.4 million will be coming to Roanoke in 2023.

City leaders hosted the community at a forum Tuesday night to hear where they feel this money should go once it becomes available.

“From my perspective, one of the things that’s been the most concerning over the last year or two is the closure of these kind of problem hotels. The problem with that, even though they are an attraction and a magnet for illegal activity, crime, violence... that is where so many people stay because they are not comfortable or safe in traditional shelter situations. We had a lot of really great innovation during the COVID outbreak, realizing that, hey, we can build contracts with these hotels, to temporarily shelter people in emergent situations, it would be really great if we could continue that,” said Danny Clawson, executive director of the Virginia Harm Reduction Coalition.

Another idea that came up is building a tiny house development.

“When we talk about building affordable housing, it’s always a futuristic approach to a problem that we have right now. The tiny house model, whatever that may look like for us locally here, could give us an opportunity to have transitional housing, it could be a place where the homeless services would be fishing in a barrel,” said Dawn Sandoval, executive director of The Least of These Ministry.

City leaders appreciated hearing this kind of feedback from the community.

“It is going to take a lot of different pieces to address this problem.”

They know it will take everyone to make sure this money goes where it needs to.

“We really need to look at a consolidated and a coordinated effort on how we address or how we coordinate our funding. Whether it be public funding, private funding or nonprofits, faith based community, everyone, this is a big community.”

The need for mental health services was also emphasized across the meeting and this conversation is far from over.

The city still needs to come up with a plan to submit; that will then need to be approved by city council at a public hearing, and ultimately approved by Housing and Urban Development. The hope is that these funds will be able to be dispersed to community partners by the fall of 2023.