Intention of Liberation Church is a children’s learning center, not a homeless shelter, says pastor | Richmond Free Press

The Liberation Church founding pastor is pushing back against a report that the city was considering placing a large homeless shelter on the site of the main shrine at 5501 Midlothian Turnpike.

Founding pastor Jay Patrick said the church never considered the idea.

“We are opening an affordable children’s learning center on site in partnership with the YMCA,” said Pastor Patrick. According to him, a program for homeless adults would not mix with a program for children aged 3 to 5.

Ninth District Councilman Michael J. Jones raised concerns at the July 25 council meeting about a possible 150-bed shelter going to the release site, even though he is outside his district.

Dr Jones, himself a full-time church leader, said he relied on the information the city administration had given him to raise opposition to such a large shelter on the site and to advocate instead for the city to set up smaller shelters at multiple sites.

The Richmond Free Press reported on the concerns raised by Dr Jones during the council session and also reported, in a follow-up article, on a meeting Dr Jones arranged between a town housing official and pastors with potential space that could be used as a city-supported accommodation space.

The city said it has a total of $3 million to spend — $1.5 million in federal funds to spend in 2023 and $1.5 million in 2024 — with approved vendors.

Pastor Patrick said Liberation has entered into preliminary talks with the city about the potential use of his now vacant former shrine at 5200 Midlothian Turnpike, which is opposite his current shrine.

The old sanctuary is in the district of Dr. Jones; the main shrine is in the district of 8th District Councilwoman Reva M. Trammell.

“We were doing our due diligence,” Pastor Patrick said. “We hadn’t made any agreements or commitments.”

However, his growing church has significant experience working with the city and providing accommodation services.

Since 2013, the church has operated a 38-bed veterans’ shelter at 12th and Hull streets, the only such program in Virginia. “We talk with city officials all the time,” said Pastor Patrick, adding that there was nothing unusual about meeting with officials to discuss ways the church could help respond to the challenges. the city’s shelter needs, especially during the winter when private shelters are full. Founded in the home of Pastor Patrick 13 years ago, the church operates two nonprofit organizations that seek to fulfill its stated mission to “love people, show kindness and serve the community.”

In 2018, Liberation purchased the former home of the United Nations Church at 5200 Midlothian after that church moved to Cowardin Avenue.

Three years later, in 2021, Liberation expanded again after receiving the 15-acre property of Celebration Church, formerly the Richmond Outreach Center, at 5501 Midlothian debt-free. In addition to services, Liberation also operates a consulting agency, retail store, and on-campus workforce development and addictions programs.

The church also hosts community events. For example, the Northside Coalition for Children held its 14th annual citywide back-to-school rally and school supply distribution at Liberation on August 13.

This Saturday, August 20, Richmond Police will hold their first gun buyback program in the large Liberation parking lot.

“We strive to be the church in town,” said Pastor Patrick, “meeting the needs of its people, one family at a time.

Jerry B. Hatch