Harrisonburg breaks ground on permanent homeless shelter

By Colby Johnson

Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 6:49 PM EDT|Updated: 21 hours ago

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Thursday was a big day in Harrisonburg as the city broke ground on a permanent homeless shelter and services center on North Main Street. The project is being funded through the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funds.

For Harrisonburg Mayor Deanna Reed, the day marked the fulfillment of a promise five years in the making.

“People ask me ‘As a Mayor, what bothers you the most?’ This is one thing, people not having a place to stay, a shelter, a house to live in is something that keeps me up at night,” said Harrisonburg Mayor Deanna Reed.

Five years ago Reed met with leaders from five local organizations: Mercy House, First Step, Open Doors, the Salvation Army, and the Harrisonburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority to discuss homelessness in Harrisonburg. She promised them that she would make it a priority and the long road toward building the shelter began.

“It was a very tough start, a lot of frustrations and a lot of doubt because we knew we had a growing homeless population in Harrisonburg,” said Reed. “We established a coalition which had probably about 20-25 organizations a part of it along with the county, along with the Harrisonburg Police Department and we started that first so we could figure out exactly what we needed.”

Now Nielsen Builders has begun work on constructing the homeless service center that will be much more than just a shelter.

“This is going to be a service center, a service campus, where people can come in and receive those wrap-around services that they need so they can live independently successfully,” said Reed. “This was a great place to build the center because it’s right next door to the Community Services Board which offers more support.”

Reed said that by working with non-profit organizations in the community the center will be able to provide key resources to the city’s homeless population.

“We’re looking at bringing health care, programs, education programs, job programs, whatever we need,” she said. “Once it’s all completed we’ll be able to have programs and services to accommodate people no matter what level they are at in their life.”

The Homeless Services Center will also be a home for the city’s non-profits to provide various programs to those in need.

“The suitcase clinic will be running out of here as well, providing health services. Volunteers will run it, it’s going to be a place where people will just be here serving others,” said Reed.

The target date for the completion of construction for the homeless services center is October 4, 2024.

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