RIVER RANT: Homeless camps along James River

Homeless camp near Missing Link Trail at Manchester Climbing WallIt is well known that there are hidden spots along the James River where homeless people choose to make camp. Hikers could find homeless many places, including along Pipeline Rapids, near the Manchester Climbing Wall, in the woods on the north bank near the Boulevard Bridge and amid the many islands that dot the river, just to name a few. While is isn’t condoned, there seems to be little push to enforce park rules about camping or trespassing after dark.

Have you ever had a reason to complain about homeless camps in the James River Park System? Do you think Richmond has a problem? What would you encourage the city of Richmond to do about homeless in the park?

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13 responses to “RIVER RANT: Homeless camps along James River

  1. During a river cleanup a few years ago, under the supervision of the RPD & the JRPS , our group of volunteers spent hours emptying and disposing of piss bottles, disposable propane tanks, and a vast amount of other garbage surrounding a semi permanent camp near the Mayo bridge. As a citizen I would be arrested and fined for that type of activity, but you are right, the City and the JRPS generally turn a blind eye towards these camps.

    • I think I remember that clean up — they also pulled several matresses and at least 20 bikes from the island. I had had a bike stolen about three months before that from nearby and was looking all over for mine. Since that time I think I have been more dedicated to cleaning the river, reporting problems and watching me and my property more carefully at the river.

  2. What’s worse are the gangs of roving youths who have been riding the rails and ending up in River City in massive proportions as of late.
    While the “homeless” might offend the sensibilities of the upscale visitor to our parks, these youths look like they can present a real danger should they take a dislike to you or covet your goods or woman.
    Anyone know what the story is behind these kids?

  3. I don’t care where someone sleeps – I almost envy the free spirit. But what’s the excuse for not keeping the place clean. and what’s up with all the glass at Belle Island – is the kids? the homeless? who?

  4. if you were homeless, where would you live? cant blame them for wanting to live there can you. you know where they’re camps are so if it bothers you then don’t go there.

    • I can’t argue with the first part of your comment, but the river doesn’t belong to them or anyone else. It isn’t theirs to trash. This camp is horrible and completely unacceptable. I’d love to be able to go wherever I want at the river without threat of selfish destruction of nature like this guy.

      • yea but its not like theyre trashin the whole park system. most homeless camps are out of jrps territory. i can think of one, thats been abandoned for quite some time now. but thats it. and the trash is pretty well contained within a few yards of theyre camp.

  5. Does make for an interesting contrast though.
    On one side you have people just barely able to survive trying to avoid harassment and on the other side you have people with comfortable homes who see the river as a personal entitlement.

    Reminds me of the old days when the James River was still “undiscovered” by the politicians and still “wild and free” for the taking.

    There was a fella we called “Sam the River Rat” who built himself a little shack down where the visitors center is today.

    A colorful guy and fun for us kids to visit. Too bad, there’s no place for his kind in the Richmond River scene today.

  6. Warning- not all of these river ‘rats’ are harmless.
    We have had instances where they come up from river to rob.

    I do feel for the homeless and I do understand the idea of livin’ free, but caution is still needed.

  7. I didn’t mean to imply that the current crop of squatters are harmless. In fact, they’re a different breed than the Sam the River rat of old. Sam took care of his “property” (such as it was) and wasn’t out begging.

    I was just making a comment on how the “entitlement” segment of our society today seems to feel that anyone different than themselves has no right to use public spaces (or even live if it comes to that). They don’t just limit their contempt to the dregs of society either.
    Even if these “homeless” were not trashing the place, there would still be those who find their very presence unacceptable.

    That’s not to say that this current group of squatters does not represent a clear and present danger to the unwary.

    • Great point HR. I think you are encapsulating my point of view a little when you wrote “the “entitlement” segment of our society today seems to feel that anyone different than themselves has no right to use public spaces.” That paints my type as an elitist, but I think there is good reason to feel that way.

      I have two small kids and I’m concerned for their safety. I use the river often and have had my property stolen or damaged. I clean the river often and despise the preventable human filth. Most of all, I build at the river often, and hate the criminal destruction of the things we create. The things my groups do are for the betterment of all river goers and nature itself, and when individuals destroy or disrespect those efforts, that upsets me. I’m entitled to be upset by that. There is no proof that homeless people contributed to any of what I’m concerned about, but I have a right to be suspicious of their activities.

      Camp as you need homeless people, but don’t steal or damage property, and for God’s sake, clean up after yourselves.

  8. Sometimes it is better just to establish a few simple rules and enforce them, like no camping in the park. It would be better for the park and safer for everyone else.

  9. There’s a homeless guy at the south end of the Manchester bridge at the beginning of th floodwall canalwalk. I wave to him every day, sometimes say hello. I think he has a job, but lives down in that area somewhere. I doubt he’s one of the bad ones and I think partying drunks at Belle isle are a much bigger problem than homeless camps.

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