December 15, 2020 News & Features » Cover Story

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Rhonda Sneed’s 2020 

click to enlarge Rhonda Sneed is co-founder and volunteer leader for Camp Cathy, a tent city for the homeless that sprung up across the street from the Richmond Justice Center on Oliver Hill Way and was dismantled in March.

Scott Elmquist

Rhonda Sneed is co-founder and volunteer leader for Camp Cathy, a tent city for the homeless that sprung up across the street from the Richmond Justice Center on Oliver Hill Way and was dismantled in March.

In November 2019, retired postal worker Rhonda Sneed helped gather a group of around 100 unsheltered Richmonders on a plot of city-owned land on Oliver Hill Way into tents. On March 19, after months of back-and-forth with Richmond officials, Sneed, an Air Force veteran, watched municipal workers deposit their belongings in the trash. 

The authorities and nonprofits had assured Sneed that former Camp Cathy residents would be directed to hotels where they could stay for free.

Sneed says she spent the remainder of 2020 trying to hold officials to their word. In the meantime, she wakes up every day before sunrise to prepare meals for 100 unsheltered people as part of Blessing Warriors RVA, the group she co-founded. We asked her to tell us about the past year, and what she hopes for in 2021:

“Being in a hotel, then being kicked out because it’s above 45 degrees, that’s emotionally draining – in and out, in and out. 

“They should have left the camp alone. The tents were far enough apart. You’re putting people in a hotel together and telling me it’s COVID safe? 

“But after all that happened, you’d expect the city to say, ‘Let’s talk.’  I’m still the No. 1 enemy. 

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST/FILE
  • Scott Elmquist/File

“We are renting now nine storage units. We are looking for a building. We have tiny homes waiting if we had a piece of land. But everywhere we look into, the zoning codes say ‘no.’

“I have tried for four years to contact Mayor Stoney. He has never, ever returned a phone call of mine. In four years he has never heard my voice. In 2021, maybe he’ll reach out. Those young people protesting – he can go talk to them. But here are hundreds of lives he’s in charge of, and he can’t call me? 

“If the mayor thinks he can ignore me and I’ll go away, I will not go away. I have told these people I will not let them be invisible again. I was homeless three times in my life. I got through it. And they will get through it, too.” 

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