You might have seen one of the new signs up at Market Street Park in Charlottesville: “Open House, Sat. 10/21, 12pm-2pm,” one reads. “Open House, Homeless Camp, Saturday 12pm-2pm,” says the other.
People staying in the park say there’s not really an open house that afternoon, but there’s not not an open house, either.
“People walk through a public park every day, so we’re kind of already an open house,” said Quinn-Michyelle Foxx, who has lived in Charlottesville since 2005 and lived in the woods before coming to the park. Foxx plans on going to the People and Congregations Engaged in Ministry (PACEM) seasonal congregate shelter when it opens Saturday evening at the Hinton Avenue Methodist Church, and said he’s already moved his tent out of the park.
But still, the “open house” is a chance “to communicate, to mingle,” to experience “the force of community,” said Foxx, who might put some original art on display Saturday. “We’re homeless. We’re not expecting anything from you, just well-wishes, the energy that we need. That alone helps. Blessings come through.”
Donald Marsh, another person camping in the park, said that he and others staying there need more than well-wishes, though it would be nice if people walking past the park actually said hello instead of just pretending he and others weren’t there.
“We need more resources, we need more places to go,” said Marsh. Specifically, he said, they need a year-round, overnight, low-barrier shelter.
For two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, Charlottesville had such a shelter for seniors and very ill people run by PACEM, but it closed when the funding dried up.
Last week, City Manager Sam Sanders announced that Market Street Park will again have a curfew, starting at 11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21. The park will be closed at night, from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. The city has not said how it will enforce the curfew for those who don’t move out.
Though there are people in the park who are planning to go to a shelter by Saturday night, not everyone will want to. Some people will move to another public place or another park. And Marsh said he wouldn’t be surprised if some people refuse to pack up their tents at all.
“There’s too many tents out here. You can’t kick them all out. You know what kind of attention that’ll bring, and anyway, we’ll just move on to the next one. We need more shelters, more shelter capacity,” he said.
On Friday, the Charlottesville Police Department put up signs for Saturday night road closures on Market Street in downtown. Spokesperson Afton Schneider said that the closures will begin at 10:30 p.m.. The police department says they will help people move and offered rides to shelters or any other location people in the tent community want to go within a reasonable distance, but will enforce the curfew and make arrests if people do not leave the park.
“The park will be cleared by Sunday morning,” Schneider told Charlottesville Tomorrow.
If you are seeking resources from PACEM, visit their website or call 434-465-1392 for the men’s shelter, 434-465-7521 for the women’s shelter. Nonbinary folks are welcome at both sites. The Salvation Army is at 207 Ridge St. in Charlottesville, or call 434-295-4058. Looking for resources for housing, health, transportation and other types of support? Bookmark Street Sheet Resources, produced and kept up to date by various agencies. It has resources you can use or share with neighbors, and have printable versions in many languages.
[Editor’s note: This story was updated on Oct. 21 to add information about the Charlottesville Police Department’s plans.]
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