“I take my duty to be a clown extremely seriously.”

Reed Bradenstone — 2024

Richmond, VA — 5th District

A Goddamn Homeless Shelter

A screenshot from Google Earth showing the Roanoke Rescue Mission campus, including the original building which has been expanded multiple times, a large family shelter and clinic building, a large thrift store, two warehouses, and two houses that have been annexed.

I had a mild shock when I visited the 7-Eleven next door to my apartment this morning and picked up the new Richmond Free Press* on the newspaper stand. This is the only newspaper in Richmond worth the paper it’s printed on, and as it says in the name, it’s free.

The first headline wasn’t a shock: Our mayor, on whose orders I have been previously tear-gassed, had taken funds that were accepted on the condition that they serve anti-violence youth programs and diverted them to purchasing, “shields to protect [police officers] and their cars while on duty.” The news is weeks-old and perfectly within the expected character of Levar Stoney. What reset this story to above-the-fold news was Stoney’s silence on that misappropriation of funds at a gun violence awareness event Tuesday*. None of this callous bootlicking was what shocked me.

The next article on the page is, “The need for food and shelter grows for city’s homeless.” It’s a short article on the desperate need for food and shelter among Richmond’s growing homeless population, and it focuses on an interview with Rhonda Sneed of Blessing Warriors RVA*, but the photo that originally caught my eye was the smirking stock photo of RVA-5’s Stephanie Lynch.

This photo:

Stephanie Lynch obscuring the details of a famous car wreck.

“Holy shit,” I exclaimed to myself as a guy playing the video poker machine at 9 in the morning eyed me suspiciously. Is she actually going to propose a 24/7 shelter, I thought to myself, retreating through the double doors, realizing that I probably shouldn’t be grabbing newspapers and shouting obscenities in front of people who are just trying to gamble.

I read the article. The answer was no, and my shock melted back into its standard dull anger. Ms. Lynch’s photo appeared in the article only because the article quoted statistics she mentioned in a Council Meeting last month pertaining to homeless families with children. There was no other input from my District’s Councilperson to this article.

What the article did promote, however, was a nebulous hope for increased volunteerism, provided by Christians*, to meet the growing crisis of housing and food insecurity. The need for a city-funded, permanent, 24/7 shelter was relegated to two sentences: “Ms. Sneed has advocated for a city funded a [sic] year-round shelter where people could receive food and additional resources. At this point, the city only supports additional shelter beds during the winter or during adverse weather conditions, such as a tropical storm.” The article then continues accepting donation-based, Christian-oriented volunteerism as the honorable status quo.

I grew up in Roanoke, Virginia*, which boasts the Megachurch of Christian volunteerism: The Roanoke Rescue Mission. My mother was a member of the Board of Directors, and so I was often present*, when this Mission expanded its campus to include a free clinic, a free dentist’s office, a new thrift store and an antique/art store to generate revenue, a secure women & children’s shelter for victims of abuse, a cabin with a ropes course for kids of displaced families, multiple new addiction recovery programs, and a large commercial kitchen. I was unaware growing up that these resources were elsewhere rare, and that my then-faith provided a barrier for others’ access. Being a common environment in my upbringing, discovering that ThE gReAtEsT gOvErNmEnT iN tHe WoRlD was unable/unwilling to provide the same thing anywhere else was one of my first eye-opening experiences into the “Fuck the Government” worldview.

Since that time, I have seen my Federal, State, and Local governments fund some really stupid, super high-dollar, massively under-quoted projects: wars, stadiums, bank bailouts, interstate bypasses, leaky fighter jets, P.R. campaigns…

We , the public, are not incapable of providing for the needy. Our representatives are simply unwilling.

We need to view the well-being of others and the availability of their opportunities to thrive as a worthy investment in our society; we cannot simply continue pawning this mission off on the churches. We need to view the housing, food, and healthcare scarcity crises as a public infrastructure project.

We need to build a goddamn homeless shelter.


  • “the new Richmond Free Press” — Vol. 32, No. 22, June 1–3, 2023
  • “at a gun violence awareness event Tuesday” — Organizers wore orange and encouraged everyone else to wear orange, presumably to make it easier for a would-be mass shooter.
  • “Blessing Warriors RVA” — Of the nine organizational donors on their website, eight of them are explicitly Christian churches or ministries. Their logo was apparently designed by kids at Vacation Bible School, being full of Christian symbolism haphazardly pasted around a kick-ass sword. The only other reference to Christianity on the website is on the Donate page: “GOD GOT THIS!!” which seems to imply that God has rendered personal donations unnecessary. Look—I’m glad some Christians are getting their hands dirty to help, but we can’t rely on Christian volunteerism to supply our social and economic needs.
  • “increased volunteerism, provided by Christians” — No mention of secular groups, such as the anarchist collective Food Not Bombs which serves hot vegetarian meals and redistributes discarded groceries weekly in Monroe Park.
  • “Roanoke, Virginia” — The Town that Norfolk Southern Built… as opposed to that other town.
  • “I was often present” — I guess you could say that I had a… sheltered upbringing.

NOTE: This is not the same thing as voting for me.