Monroe Park is the oldest park in the city of Richmond. It is centrally located and utilized by VCU students, downtown residents and has become a hub for the homeless population of our city. There are plans to renovate the park which would require it’s closing for up to two years. The plans for the park’s future are impressive with a new playground, outdoor theater , more functional grounds , restoration of the fountain, improved restroom facilities and maintenance of aging infrastructure under the park. The plans are exciting and will certainly improve the attractiveness of the park and our city.
The issue is not whether or not the park needs a face lift, the issue is what will happen to the hundreds of indigent and impoverished individuals who congregate at the park and the Christians who connect to the homeless by providing services in the park?
I decided the best way to understand this issue was to visit with the folks who were in the park today. We met many homeless friends, some who were unsheltered, some sheltered, some formerly homeless and some newly homeless. Some came to get food and clothing, others for the fellowship. Some played chess, others gathered for conversations on benches, while others napped in the grass or beneath the massive trees.