Jamison Manion, who is administering the city's workforce development program reached out to me and, in a series of discussions, convincingly made the case that Richmond is very open to partnering with academic researchers who would be interested in studying the obstacles to entry in the labor force, and crafting policies to overcome these. It sounds like they have data...so it could be an opportunity for some economist interested in poverty, cities, and labor force participation.
Here are two news stories and a presentation by Manion to the City Council.
Programs Administrator for Workforce Development
Center for Workforce Innovation
City of Richmond, VA