Group plans to offer services to youth, locals in crisis

Some of the professionals involved in Men and Women of Purpose pose outside of City Hall after a meeting with City Manager Bill Lindsay. (photo courtesty of: Antwon Cloird)

Some of the professionals involved in Men and Women of Purpose pose outside of City Hall after a meeting with City Manager Bill Lindsay. (photo courtesty of: Antwon Cloird)

A new alternative, social service program called Men and Women of purpose hopes to set up in Richmond.

Led by Antwon Cloird, the group includes former felons, drug addicts and others who have overcome difficult circumstances. They have turned their lives around and now have professional degrees in psychiatry and counseling.

“We all have a past,” Cloird said. “And our past helps us help people who were once were we were at. We know how they feel.”

Cloird’s goal: to set up a one-stop shop on 23rd Street where Richmond residents can come for help with everything from substance abuse to early childhood development. The group already has a 24-hour hotline up and running for Richmond residents dealing with crises and emergencies.

Cloird said that he’s interested in Men and Women of Purpose getting involved with Ceasefire, an initiative mainly driven by the Office of Neighborhood Safety’s DeVone Boggan. Cloird has often lambasted the ONS at public events and City Council meetings, and one of his biggest criticisms is that the ONS staff lacks training and credibility in the neighborhood it serves.

Cloird, 48, was raised in Richmond and diagnosed with bipolar disorder at an early age. He says he began using drugs at age nine and was addicted to crack cocaine for 35 years.

“Socially, it just overtook me and it was all I knew,” he said.

After going through a number of other treatment programs throughout Contra Costa County and consistently relapsing, Cloird found help at Richmond’s Neighborhood House. Some of the people who Cloird says “helped [him] to save [his] life” are now on his team for Men and Woman of Purpose.

After his recovery, Cloird said, he decided to spend his life helping others, particularly those who need specialized care. He coordinated the anti-violence tent city efforts in 2006 and says he now spends much of his time helping people recently released from jail to find work.

“Those are the things I get my enjoyment out of,” he said. “I don’t get a dime out of it. It’s not about money; it’s about giving people a second chance at life.”

But now that Cloird is looking to officially set up shop, money has become a factor. He said the very least his group will need to start operations is $200,000. Cloird hopes to get city funding for the project.

While City Manager Bill Lindsay said he was impressed by the organization and its capabilities, he said there is much to be done before he can say with certainty that the city will fund the project. Lindsay said he doesn’t know where the money would come from or even how much funding is really needed for the group.

“If we were to do something, we would have to go into a contract and it would be much more than just writing a check,” Lindsay said.

Cloird says he has nine professionals on board for his plan, which includes addiction, substance abuse and early childhood development specialists. Everyone except Cloird has an advanced degree.

“All of them have been on drugs, have been institutionalized at one point in their life,” Cloird said. “And now they have changed their lives around to help the community …  We have people who can talk their language, who’ve been in prison, who’ve been in the game.”

Men and Women of Purpose will host a peace party at Nevin Park at noon on Dec. 17. Its emergency hotline number is 510-847-4695.

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