Emergency shelter proposal to undergo public safety review

Emergency shelter proposal to undergo public safety review
An emergency shelter is proposed at 207 37th St. in Richmond. (Photo by Kathy Chouteau).

By Mike Kinney

The Richmond Planning Commission delayed voting on a proposed 25-person capacity emergency shelter at 37th Street and Bissell Avenue so that its potential impacts on the neighborhood can be studied further.

Gregory VanMechelen of VanMechelen Architects in Berkeley is requesting a conditional use permit on behalf of Lonnie Holmes and Joanne Tang to convert the vacant, 5,045 square foot property at 207 37th St. into an emergency shelter.

Last year, the city used the site as a temporary shelter to house members of the former Castro encampment in North Richmond. Neighbors wrote to the city saying the temporary shelter brought rampant crime in their neighborhood, including drugs, violence, vandalism and prostitution. Several residents attended the June 6 Planning Commission meeting to oppose the possibility of an emergency shelter at that location, which is one block from DeJean Middle School.

Holmes, executive director of the California Portsmouth Square Association (CPSA), says the proposed emergeny shelter will differ from the temporary one in that it will accept formerly incarcerated individuals. The state would refer individuals to the shelter and fund their care via GEO Reentry Services, Holmes said. 

Holmes says the facility and surrounding areas will be monitored at the emergency shelter via cameras and onsite staff and that an on-call psychologist would be available for shelter residents in need of mental health services. Residents would receive vocational and rehabilitation type services and will be assisted with finding permanent housing. 

Ultimately, the Planning Commission voted to continue the matter to its July 18 meeting so the issue of public safety could be studied further. Another matter at issue is the maximum allowable capacity of the shelter. While the applicant requests 25 people, city staff is proposing to reduce that number to 16.