Petersburg Resumes Important Actions Against City Code Violators — Homeless Needs Increase

Travel Inn was shut down by the ACE team in June. Courtesy Joyce Chu, Progress Index.

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes absolutely necessary actions have more than one outcome.

Such is the case in Petersburg.

Joyce Chu of Petersburg’s indispensable Progress- Index last evening initiated a multi-part series on the impacts of the city’s closure due to safety violations of two motels used by otherwise homeless people.

Her first article makes a case for more government and charitable services for the people affected by the closures. Good for her. No one wants people living on the streets and everyone wants the kids in school.

She explains that the California Inn, OYO and Travel Inn motels, among a group of low cost motels right off of I-95, were

also hotbeds of crime, drug overdoses and prostitution mixed in with families with children, according to former residents and homeless advocates.

She points out that Petersburg has resumed (after a lengthy period when it did not) enforcing its zoning codes. A team called the ACE team — Abatement, Compliance, and Enforcement — is on task, run by the Fire Chief.

Code enforcement is an absolutely necessary step to revitalize the city.

So is helping those adversely affected.  -Hotel owners should be forced within the limits of the law to assist.

Social services and CARES. The cities of Petersburg, Hopewell and Colonial Heights have enormous social services needs. The resources to fill those needs can be found here. Of particular interest to me is CARES, the Crisis Assistance Response Emergency Shelter for women and children.

CARES also operates a Food Pantry and Clothes Closet for low-income residents of Petersburg.

CARES aims to help your family return to stability, dignity, and self-reliance. We provide emergency shelter, workshops and training, networking and job searches, and more. Our educational coordinator will ensure your children are enrolled in school with supplies, provide enrichment activities, tutoring, and more.

It is difficult to think of a more important service.

Of the clients entering the CARES Shelter in FY19, 52% were survivors of domestic violence, 21% claimed a disability and 15% suffered from mental illness.

Unfortunately, the shelter only has 20 beds. CARES publishes a needs list for non-cash donations. For cash donations, see here.

Crisis Hotline reserves most of the rooms in the remaining low cost Petersburg motels, which are regularly sold out.

Broken windows code enforcement. Ms. Chu’s story also points out that Petersburg has taken an absolutely vital step forward in its efforts to revitalize the city.

Earlier this year, it resuscitated its once-inactive code compliance team dubbed the “ACE” team—Abatement, Compliance, and Enforcement.

The team brings together multiple people from the Police Department, Neighborhood Services, Fire Department, Zoning, the Virginia Department of Health, the Commissioner of Revenue, and a social worker.

With the revamping of the ACE team, property owners and residents who violate health and safety codes can be held accountable. “Neighborhoods and city residents are entitled to fair and consistent enforcement of established laws, regulations, codes, and ordinances,” said Fire Chief Jim Reid, the director of the ACE team.

The motels were the first target. Code violations rose to the level of “unfit for human habitation.” Profitable hell-holes.

Call it broken windows code enforcement. Note also that the State Department of Health is participating in the ACE team.

Bottom line. The ACE team is assigned the indispensable task of making Petersburg livable, safe from dangerous code violations.

The criminal justice system has the job of making it safe from predators.

The Governor’s initiative to help Petersburg is assisting the city in both efforts.

The hotel owners whose facilities violated the codes can pay the appropriate fines.

The rest of us can contribute to CARES.