Fall 2022 Updates from Safe Organized Spaces

Fall 2022 Updates from Safe Organized Spaces

By Daniel Barth, Executive Director of Safe Organized Spaces Richmond

Ramon Quintana from Collaborising and O’Neill Fernandez from SOS. Integral partnerships are created when funds are shared among organizations large and small, such as Collaborising and LifeLong Medical Care. Photo Credit: Maurice Tierney

Safe Organized Spaces Richmond (SOS) continues to fulfill its commitments to the city in our first year of funding, delivering on promises of jobs, encampment services, and working toward safe living spaces.

Our most recent accomplishment was helping clear the Rydin Road encampment. After residents were provided alternative temporary housing, the city had the task of making sure the street was properly cleared of debris and cleaned.

Fire Marshall Eric Govan directing SOS staff Mernard Washington and Tshombe Perkins at Castro RV encampment. Richmond's Fire Department is one of many city agencies working in collaboration with SOS. Photo credit: Maurice Tierney

Amazingly, Rydin Road was quickly cleared completely of trash, broken down vehicles, and dwelling units. It was a gargantuan effort, made possible with caring work by dozens of city agency leaders, workers, and community partners who carried the project to completion. Our aim, as always, was to provide a Community of Care that keeps each household in our hearts and extends a safety net for supporting them. In the case of Rydin, the goal is that we continue to assist each household in transitioning to housing by providing the peer-based navigation and logistical support to achieve housing status.

SOS hires unhoused leaders straight out of encampments to bring their peers along on pathways for healthier life choices, job advancements and toward permanent housing. Our initial funding started in October 2021. Since that time, SOS has disposed of 728,000 pounds of trash, offered 1,730 showers to people living in our encampments, and we have helped half of its 22 current employees into housing upgrades. 

The SOS team deploys Encampment Services, starting with mobile showers, then toilets, drinking water, and laundry. We deepen our outreach, bring housed and unhoused neighbors together, and build integral partnerships with organizations like LifeLong Medical Care and the County’s Health Care for the Homeless. 

SOS is a 501c3 nonprofit corporation. Our next steps include appeals to our Richmond family to help us build organizational capacity for steering collective work on unhoused interventions. We need community leaders to support us with pro-bono fundraising, marketing, and bookkeeping. 

We need to raise more start-up funds from community members to diversify our funding base and develop a management team that moves the organization forward. We need the basics, such as to start our own payroll in October and to hire and support a Workforce Coordinator to manage the Workforce Empowerment Approach, illustrated above. We need the management team and advisors who help deepen our impacts on unsupported encampments.  

SOS seeks community leaders who work on neighborhood-based solutions. Allies in key neighborhoods will develop a community advisory council for creating neighborhood acceptance of Safe Living Spaces. 

The outreach evolves into problem-solving and peer-based navigation for encampment residents as they exercise their choices for healthier ways of living, become employed, and eventually can afford suitable housing. 

Excitingly, SOS already has neighborhoods participating in our efforts: Santa Fe, Parchester, and El Sobrante. The Iron Triangle neighborhood is where we will concentrate next, with a focus on Macdonald Ave from City Hall to 1st St. 

SOS invites your ideas, active participation, and your service. Consider joining the community advisory council or volunteering your skills or financial support. Let’s impact homelessness with real solutions in our neighborhoods by deepening our community of care, centered on supporting our unhoused neighbors and their talents to lead the changemaking that we all wish to see.

To contact SOS, please reach out to Daniel Barth at [email protected] or 510-990-2686.