Social workers sought for initiative to house homeless in Richmond and North Richmond

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Social workers sought for initiative to house homeless in Richmond and North Richmond
Photo credited to the Contra Costa County Coordinated Outreach Referral, Engagement (C.O.R.E.) program.

Social workers are being sought to help augment a wide-ranging, public-private initiative to house people experiencing homelessness in Richmond and North Richmond, with a focus on the RV encampment at Castro Street near the Richmond Parkway.

Positions are available with the Coordinated Outreach Referral and Engagement (CORE) program, which works in teams “to engage individuals and families experiencing homelessness to build rapport, coordinate health and behavioral health care, identify appropriate resources, and provide linkages to housing programs.”

To learn more about the role and to apply, go here.

The new social worker positions are funded by Chevron Richmond and are part of a coordinated effort to focus resources on the Castro encampment, where unsafe conditions, including fires and crime, have placed at risk the safety of people experiencing homelessness, along with neighbors and public safety officials.

The opportunity came out of Chevron Richmond’s participation with the Castro business communities stakeholder group, in collaboration with the city’s homeless taskforce, led by City of Richmond Crime Prevention Manager Michelle Milam.

About 75 individuals living at the Castro encampment are expected to be served through the project, amplifying existing strategies to provide evidence-based clinical case management and social service navigation, according to the city.

“The primary outcome will be to provide positive connections with unhoused individuals to clinical services, housing, mental health and substance abuse treatment,” the city said.

In addition, Chevron Richmond is supporting the work of SOS! Richmond, the nonprofit that hires people experiencing homelessness to help clean up encampments, with its ongoing efforts at the Castro encampment. Chevron Richmond is one of the first, if not the first, corporate groups to support SOS! Richmond’s efforts to help people experiencing homelessness since the start of the pandemic.

The Chevron Richmond team that includes Lily Rahnema, community engagement manager, and Hakim Johnson, senior public affairs representative, “has been great” in supporting the initiative, Milam said. “They’ve attended our local community meetings and really listened to find out where they could be most helpful.”

“It has been helpful to have willing partners that see the value in helping to support our efforts to get people some of the services they need,” Milam added. “That could be getting benefits, family reunification, health services, treatment, employment referrals. This [investment] provides us with more support for those kinds of efforts to amplify what CORE can do.”

Meanwhile, Chevron Richmond continues its longtime support of the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP) and the Bay Area Rescue Mission, which provide wraparound services to people experiencing homelessness throughout the community.

City workers and public safety officials have been busy clearing abandoned vehicles to prevent future fires at the Castro encampment. Recently, the Richmond Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Division joined several city and county agencies in an abatement effort at the Castro encampment. Contra Costa Environmental Health and Civicorps helped with the removal of 186 tires, for a total of 325 tires removed in the previous two weeks, while the city’s Parking Enforcement division removed non-operational vehicles and the city’s Public Works department helped with trash removal.

More support is on the way. Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced that Richmond will receive a $4.8 million grant to “rehouse 100 individuals.” It was the second largest grant in the state and will assist in efforts at the Castro encampment.

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt and the Richmond Rotary Club are additionally finding success in their partnership to house individuals. Called the Mayor’s Housing First Initiative, the partnership “has already housed approximately 10 percent of the people living in cars and RVs” at the Castro encampment,” the mayor said.

The initiatives match RV dwellers who are reluctant to move to transitional housing with landlords that have empty apartments. Through private donations, the program pays landlords up to one year of market-rate rents upfront to house the homeless individuals and families.

Since launching in January, the program has moved a family of six, a family of five, a family of two, which includes a 1-year-old, and a family of three, including her mom and two children, into apartments.

To support  the Mayor’s Housing First Initiative, a GoFundMe fundraiser has been launched to collect donations. Landlords with available units can contact the mayor at [email protected].

The mayor has additionally launched an effort to hold Caltrans accountable for encampments existing on its right-of-ways.