City council candidates weigh in on how to help Richmond’s unhoused community
on October 6, 2022
Kevin Canamore wants answers. He wants his community to get the services it was promised. But more than anything, he just wants to live in a real house.
Canamore was living on Rydin Road, one of the largest homeless encampments in Richmond until it was cleared last weekend. According to Contra Costa County’s Homeless Point-In-Time Count for 2022, Richmond is home to 632 unsheltered people. That number is 90% higher than the 2019 figure. While the city is in the process of clearing RV encampments on Rydin Road and Castro Street and rehousing people, a permanent solution remains elusive.
“The city of Richmond wants to get rid of us. They don’t want us. They’re not giving us any services except portable toilets,” Canamore said. “They’re not helping us and we have nowhere to go. We need housing and we need new leadership.”
With City Council and mayoral elections next month, Richmond will have new leadership. Those running for the three available council seats may not agree on much but most of them believe that Richmond’s unhoused population is too large to ignore.
“When I drive through the encampments, I feel so guilty seeing people in those conditions. They’re not getting what they need. This is definitely a top priority for me,” said Oscar Garcia, who is one of three candidates running in District 3, home to the highest proportion of low-income people in the city.
“Berkeley steered individuals to either housing or treatment and didn’t just leave them on their own. Richmond can do that too with money from the state, county and city in order to get people off the street,” he said.
Doria Robinson, a candidate from the same district, said the first thing that needs to be done is to ensure the existing encampments are “humane.” She said homelessness should be treated like an. emergency and those living at encampments provided with emergency support, including a water supply, health care and trash pickup, among other things.
She said state and federal grants are needed to address the issue. “We’re leaning too much on the county. Everybody just says it’s the county’s job,” Robinson said.
Courtland “Corky” Booze, the third candidate in that district, did not respond to Richmond Confidential’s questions.
Andrew Butt, one of two District 2 candidates, said money is coming from the federal government to the county, which has the responsibility of addressing homelessness. But the county, he said, “is not doing its job.”
Butt proposed setting up a new encampment that could be managed, controlled and monitored. He said the large Castro Street encampment has turned into a “den of criminal activity” because it’s not being closely monitored.
He suggested the managed encampment be set up on privately owned land that has gone unused for many years.
“The city can offer private owners tax incentives to use that land. This is something that’s already been proposed by the mayor, who happens to be my father, but blocked by the Richmond Progressive Alliance which has control of the council right now,” he said.
According to Cesar Zepeda, who also is running in District 2, affordable housing should be built on vacant property that the city owns.
“We’re not building, that’s the main problem. Our planning department needs to be fully staffed so they can work with developers to get building projects off the ground. A lot of building projects get stalled simply because phone calls aren’t returned or there’s too much pending paperwork,” he said.
Jamin Pursell, one of two people running for District 4, advocates the “Housing First” approach that does not put prerequisites or conditions on housing beyond those for a typical renter and does not require people to participate in services before obtaining or retaining housing.
“We need more housing in the city and it needs to be affordable and not motivated by profit. We should be using the infrastructure that’s already there,” he said.
Soheila Bana, who also is running in District 4, hailed the efforts of community organization RCF Connects to refurbish abandoned homes in the city and sell them to disadvantaged people. She said she would expand such programs if elected.
Bana believes that Richmond should work with Oakland and Berkeley to come up with a regional approach to the problem.
Coming next, the candidates will discuss public safety.
City Council candidates weigh in on how to make Richmond a safer place to live
Rydin Road RV camp cleared; residents say they felt forced to leave their homes
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When will a candidate come forward and say what we all know is true? Homelessness isn’t caused by overzealous landlords, it’s caused by drug abuse, mental illness, and a combination of those two. When the homeless don’t want to live in alternative forms of housing because of the rules that go along with them, then they should be left to fend for themselves.
It’s a shame the the RC left off one of the Council candidates–Corky Boozé.
Corky says that he was never contacted but he also says that the RC reporter says he was. I hope someone can check their sources and let us know why one of the candidates was excluded from this discussion.
Editor’s note, as stated in the story: Courtland “Corky” Booze, the third candidate in that district, did not respond to Richmond Confidential’s questions.
Does Corky have a website? How can he be contacted? He doesn’t seem to be campaigning very much….I’ve only seen a few signs