The Virginia Environmental Justice Collaborative (VEJC) was created in 2015 when four organizations (The Southeast CARE Coalition, Appalachian Voices, the Federal Policy Office of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and New Virginia Majority) saw the need for statewide coordination to support Virginia organizations addressing Environmental Justice issues. The mission of the VEJC is to build the health and wealth of communities of color, low-income communities, and communities overburdened by pollution in Virginia by reducing the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards through educating, empowering, and mobilizing grassroots organizations and individuals to speak for themselves and through building an alliance to advocate for equitable policies and practices.
As part of their mission, VEJC, in partnership with United Parents Against Lead (UPAL), is creating a Community Resiliency Hub through a project named “Partnering for a Resilient Petersburg”.
The city of Petersburg has been plagued with water issues as a result of blocked drains, water main breaks, and flooding caused by sudden torrential rains. Numerous “boil water” warnings have been issued over the past several years as well as recent city-sanctioned shutoffs prompting intervention by the Virginia Health Commissioner. Residents are alarmed and unsure where to turn. Due to the socio-economic conditions the community lacks access to significant financial resources and political power. The Heights and neighboring communities have largely been overlooked and allowed to sink into an economically depressed state. There is an overabundance of vacant buildings and empty lots in The Heights, making the community ripe for gentrification. The remaining residents of The Heights are mostly elderly who have strong generational ties to the community. This is an asset and resource that the Resiliency project is building upon; families that care and are committed to working to revitalize their beloved neighborhood. Additionally, Virginia’s governor has issued an Executive Order 24 that addresses increasing Virginia’s resilience to sea-level rise and includes plans for mitigation of flood risk at the community level. Although the city of Petersburg is not coastal it is still a major flood risk. Adding to the risk is the number of vacant homes and low income housing. Residents of The Heights, along with neighboring communities, have no or poor drainage fields and no access to shelter or evacuation in the event of natural or man-made disasters. This partnership will convert a historic building formerly known as the Beaux Twenty, into a community Solar Resiliency Hub. The Beaux Twenty building, recently donated to UPAL, was once used as a facility to house the Colored USO Army troops within the city. The building is located on Byrne Street, in the heart of The Heights neighborhood. The Hub project builds upon past relationships with the city of Petersburg as a capacity-building opportunity for Petersburg residents.
For more information on how VEJC is transforming the Heights in Petersburg and other communities, kindly reach out to us on 804-370-1143, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit us at www.vaejc.com.