By Kathy Chouteau
A 5.9-acre, triangular-shaped parcel near Richmond Parkway could soon become a “managed transitional village” where homeless individuals can reside and be connected to services and resources.
On Tuesday, the Richmond City Council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the city manager and staff to begin planning and seeking funding for a potential managed transitional village for homeless residents on city-owned property. The council also approved the crafting of a city ordinance to allow the use of state-compliant emergency sleeping cabins and emergency facilities on the property. Vice Mayor Nathaniel Bates called the resolution a “slam dunk” for Richmond just prior to voting for it.
According to current plans, the managed transitional village—also referred to as a “safe park” —would be a 5.9 acre parcel bordered by Vernon Avenue, Castro Street and the Richmond Parkway in Richmond. It would provide programs and services to homeless residents currently living in vehicles and trailers on city streets and occupying tents near freeways, waterways, railroads and various other locations in Richmond.
The proposed village is a response to the city’s growing number of unsheltered people and encampments. In 2019, according to the city resolution, the Contra Costa County Point in Time count indicated 333 unsheltered homeless Richmond residents, an increase of 23 percent over 2018’s count.
Funding for the transitional village would initially originate from the County in the amount of $500,000, according to Richmond Mayor Tom Butt.
More funding for the potential Richmond initiative could come from the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom has asked the Legislature for $1.4 billion in FY 20-21 to fund efforts to alleviate homelessness and has already allocated $650 million directly to counties and cities to address homelessness throughout the state, according to the resolution.
“It’s about getting prepared in case the state [provides] more money so that we have an opportunity to use it,” said the mayor regarding the resolution during the meeting.
The city aims to collaborate with Contra Costa Health Services Health, Housing & Homeless Services and the Richmond Homeless Task Force on the managed transitional village.