The Harrisonburg City Council on Tuesday approved spending remaining federal CARES Act funds to buy property to help address homelessness in the community — a step some city leaders said they hope will lead to a year-round shelter. And housing insecurity was a theme at Tuesday’s meeting as council members learned more about the increasing numbers of residents teetering on the brink of or already in poverty.
Harrisonburg City Council members met in person for the first time since 2020 and revisited key issues from that time: the new high school and a housing crunch.
While COVID-19 vaccinations have become widely available, several Harrisonburg organizations have stepped up efforts to help people in vulnerable communities — including immigrants and refugees, as well as those experiencing homelessness — overcome hurdles to get vaccinated.
From outside, the dark red bricks and scarlet facade of what used to be Red Front Supermarket are unchanged, and the sign bearing the name of the grocery store, which closed last spring, still looms over Chicago Avenue. Inside, though, is a completely different sight than what anyone who had shopped at Red Front for more than 60 years would recognize. In the entrance, bags of donated clothes are piled where the teddy bear claw machine and free newspaper racks stood. The checkout counters have been replaced with shelves stocked with hygiene items and other essentials, while 45 beds extend across what once were grocery aisles.
The candidates campaigning for the three city council seats up for election on Nov. 3 participated in a virtual forum Wednesday night – the second such event this month involving all five candidates. Two incumbents, Mayor Deanna Reed (D) and George Hirschmann (I), and three first-time candidates, Democrats Laura Dent and Charles Hendricks, plus Republican Kathleen Kelley, largely agreed on topics ranging from how to help low-income residents in Harrisonburg to transportation priorities.
In latest round of COVID-19 business, council outlines CARES Act money and gets briefings on JMU and EMU
The Harrisonburg City Council on Tuesday took up several tactics to mitigate the effects of the pandemic: a plan for how to distribute more than $3 million more in federal CARES Act funding, an emergency ordinance to allow the Open Doors shelter to open October 1, as well as protocols to slow the virus’ transmission among college students.
Alena Pardi and her husband, Tim, thought they had found a house in Virginia and could move from Tennessee. But when they arrived in the Valley, they found they had been scammed, and the “seller” had run off with their first rent payment — which amounted to much of the money they had. Stranded, they slept in their car in Walmart’s parking lot. Then the coronavirus hit.
Democratic council candidates carve out slight differences over approaches toward housing, JMU and the golf course’s fate
The candidates seeking the Democratic nominations for this fall’s city council election signaled a general agreement on big-picture issues, such as supporting education and working to encourage affordable housing, although they each sought to differentiate themselves over how they’d prioritize certain approaches.