The Mayor’s Housing First Initiative, in partnership with the Richmond Rotary Club, has already housed approximately 10 percent of the people living in cars and RVs at the Richmond Parkway/North Castro Street RV Camp. Unfortunately, new people are moving into and expanding the camp faster than we can empty it.
Thanks to generous landlords who want to help, we have located apartments today for two more families, and we hope to move them in next week. We are also looking for furniture donations. If you have suitable items to donate, contact Tom Herriman at email@example.com.
Family 1 is a single mom with a 1-year-old daughter. She was one semester away from her bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts at Contra Costa College when she became homeless. Now her greatest ambition is to finish that degree and start her own catering business while caring for her one-year-old daughter. Mother and daughter live together in an RV in the Castro Street encampment. The dangers of the Castro camp are well-known. Earlier this week there were several fires involving cars and RVs, and two days ago, thieves stole parts from the mom’s generator, rendering it inoperable. When she can arrange childcare with family members, Mom works as a house cleaner, and arranging and catering private parties. She has ServSafe certification as a food manager. She earned about $6,000 last year and would have worked more if she’d had better childcare options. Together with food stamps, CALWORKs, and child support, her total yearly income is about $12,000. She works with SOS as a community liaison in the Castro camp, helping other residents sort out their documentation, driver’s license and vehicle registration issues, and steering people to appropriate government agencies for help.
As a veteran (and a former combat engineer) myself, I was particularly taken by this family, whose current address is a red Ford Mustang in the parking lot at Nations Hamburgers in Pinole. The family used to live in two cars on the same parking lot, but the other car was totaled in an accident and towed away earlier this week. The family includes a mom and her two children, 12 and 10, their two dogs, and a 27-year-old former Marine. The family was contacted by CC County CORE teams earlier this week, but there were no suitable housing options available, so CORE referred them to SOS. SOS has no emergency housing funds available, so the Mayor’s Community Fund and Richmond Rotary stepped up. The veteran served in the Marine Corps from 2013-18 as a combat engineer. He was under artillery and mortar fire on several occasions in Syria and elsewhere in the mid-east . He was discharged with the rank of sergeant in 2018. He suffers from knee injuries and dizziness related to his time in combat. He has applied for disability benefits form the Veterans Administration but has heard nothing about his claim for several months. He lived with his mother in San Pablo after leaving the Marine Corps and worked in various occupations including security guard, furniture mover and as a courier for Kaiser Permanente. Since the pandemic he has struggled to find a steady job and is currently looking for work. He says his job hunt is hampered by his current living situation because living in the car makes it really difficult to keep well groomed, to have clean clothes, keep the phone charged, arrange internet access, and keep track of documents and paper records. The mom and the veteran have been partners since 2021. She has worked in construction and hair styling and also makes jewelry. Both seem to have good prospects for future employment. Mom and the children are covered by CalWorks and are applying for CalFresh but have not been approved yet. They have no steady income and are relying on donations and support from family members for food and necessities.
The Mayor’s Housing First Initiative, in partnership with the Richmond Rotary Club, is the most successful program serving and actually housing homeless in the Bay Area, and we can keep it up only if people, businesses and foundations will step up to help. One reason it is so successful is that it is not a government program. There is no public money and no public bureaucracy involved. There are three ways you can help:
- Write a check to Mayor’s Community Fund at Richmond Community Foundation. Mail to Tom Butt, Mayor, City of Richmond, 450 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond CA. It takes about $20,000 to house a family for a year, so be generous!
- You can donate at GoFundMe https://gofund.me/451b7bb2.
- If you are a landlord with available units, contact me directly via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.