On Tuesday, June 16, the Shields Reid Neighborhood Council, Davis Chapel CME Church and Robert Rogers of Supervisor John Gioia’s office invited a homeless “Streets Team” to begin trash cleanup and organizing of the homeless encampment in North Richmond.
Facilitated by Safe Organized Spaces (SOS!) in Richmond, the SOS! Streets Team employs unsheltered individuals to respond to homelessness at parks, freeways, train tracks, creeks and neighborhood streets impacted by dumping and encampments throughout West Contra Costa County.
The team conducts neighborhood outreach with debris removal, sanitation and hygiene interventions, and community-building processes that lead to improved encampment conditions where unsheltered individuals reside and are supported to shelter-in-place.
The effort started in Central Richmond and now expands across West County.
Each worker is paid a decent wage of $15 per hour for 12 hours or more per week. As the Streets Team builds its personnel – now eight unsheltered individuals – they rely on the support of community members to help meet the challenge of reaching all key encampments where people struggle to shelter themselves and find basic amenities.
While neighborhood beautification is an immediate benefit, the goals of the team’s work are to improve relationships between housed and unsheltered neighbors and to help everyone to recognize how solutions are possible to improve the problems associated with homelessness in our neighborhoods.
The Streets Team is facilitated by SOS!, a community-driven network. The projects of SOS! are fiscally sponsored by TentMakers and Richmond Friends of Recreation. Concerned Richmond community members and agencies continue to join the SOS! network so that housed and unsheltered neighbors may come together and bring about personal, neighborhood and institutional changes. Through the process of integrating encampments and their residents with public agencies, civic groups, neighbors and businesses, SOS! plans to make substantive changes in our responses to homelessness.
The Streets Team has partnered with City and County agencies to place toilet and handwashing portables in key encampment locations. Encampment residents will secure the portable stations and determine responsibilities for sanitation and hygiene. In partnership with Collaborising, a nonprofit that is dedicated to improving race equity and building cross-cultural relationships, the project works with unsheltered leaders in a train-the-trainer process to establish equitable ways to govern the encampments and support safe living conditions.
The Streets Team also distributes food, PPE, hand sanitizer, trash bags and basic amenities to support health hygiene, self-screening and sanitation. It works with Davis Chapel CME Church to provide face masks, gloves, food and water at these encampments. Some 175 lunches are delivered each weekday to encampments through Ephesians of Richmond Church of God in Christ and West Contra County Unified School District.
Richmond is at a critical moment regarding homelessness. Shelters and Warming Centers are closed for adults. The most vulnerable to COVID-19 have been temporarily sheltered in hotels.
Homelessness in Richmond is expected to increase substantially in the coming months as many renters will be unable to pay overdue rents. Temporary hotel stays will end later this year, releasing people back to the streets. Key to increasing Richmond’s capacity to provide interim sheltering before winter includes finding locations to host temporary, managed transitional villages.
Before the pandemic and economic recession, homelessness in Contra Costa County had increased by 43% in two years with more than 1,000 people living outdoors. County Health Services is seeing an alarming increase in the number of homeless seniors in their 70s and 80s. The need is urgent for safe spaces for homeless individuals who are unsheltered and without the resources to pay for housing.
Contributions to the SOS! Streets Team can be made at Venmo: SOS_Richmond. To join the SOS! network to make changes in response to homelessness, call Daniel Barth at 510-990-2686.
Join the Streets Team by showing up with gloves and wearing a mask to contribute to the North Richmond Community Cleanup on Saturday, June 27, 2020 from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Meet the team at the end of Castro Street near Fred Jackson Way.