Tom Butt
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  British Media Covers Richmond Homeless Initiative
February 9, 2022

Here is a link to a long article in the Daily Mail about homeless initiative in the Bay Area, including Richmond:


The mayor of the Richmond, located in the East Bay county of Contra Costa about 20 miles from downtown San Francisco, has set up a program to match homeless people with local landlords who have empty apartments. 

Funded by private donations, it will pay the landlords a year's rent up front to encourage them to forgo the usual credit, employment and background checks for tenants.

'That's the carrot,' Mayor Tom Butt told, adding that they were paid the market rate. 

'But we have had some landlords come forward and offer it lower, as they want to participate.' 

Asked whether people expressed concern about the potential dangers of welcoming homeless people into their homes or apartments, he insisted that people care more about the plight of unhoused people and the homeless camps. 

'They are more concerned with the homeless camps,' he said. 'People want to see solutions, and want to be part of the solution.'  

He also claims he has not faced any concerns about the tenants from those housing them, because as the apartments were lower end in the first place - so they would always attract renters with less secure and affluent circumstances. 

Back in Richmond, Mayor Butt, 77, joined forces with the Rotary Club to match unhoused people with local landlords - and has already placed a family of six, including four children, who were living in an RV encampment. 

'I got disgusted at throwing all this money at the problem without any thought of the end result,' Butt told

'I had access to some funding and thought, I can't solve the whole problem. But I can move people out of RVs and tents into

'So I partnered with the local Rotary Club, and they pivoted to prioritizing people in housing, rather than showers for camps.'

Butt said he had to 'provide some kind of incentive to landlords,' and so he is paying the year's rent up-front. 

Richmond's homeless issue is comparatively small, with estimates of between 300 and 1,000 homeless people. Butt believes it is closer to the lower end of the scale.

'The big picture is that there are 160,000 homeless people in California, and unless we do something different, there will still be 160,000 ten years from now.

'If you take those 160,000 and multiply that by the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment, the cost is $1 billion.

'California's state budget is $300 billion a year. So for less than one percent of the annual state budget, you have provided housing for all.'

Asked what he would say to those who argue his plan would encourage homeless to flock to California from other states, in search of free housing, he said it was a risk they could 'work out' if it happened. 

'None of the things that are happening now are working,' he said.

'None have an end game. They are just throwing money at it.

'Last year, in Richmond, we spent $1.5 million just servicing homeless camps - with that money, we could have bought 77 one-bed or studio apartments.

'We're the richest country in the world, and California brags about being the fifth largest economy.

'But if we can't sort this out, we're lame.'