Sunsetting of Rydin Road
By Alfredo Angulo
The July 26th City Council meeting gave us a disturbing view of the deeply harmful effects that a polarized council can have on the most vulnerable people in our community. That evening, a minority of the city council used its power to dismiss a much-needed discussion on the situation at Rydin Road. Many residents eagerly awaited their turn to address their council representatives and express their frustration for the way the situation is unfolding. For weeks prior, a group of advocates from various organizations like the Housing Consortium of the East Bay (HCEB), Collaborizing, city staff, and Vice-Mayor Martinez have worked to develop an equitable plan to connect Rydin Road residents with dignified housing. The rapidity with which some council members decided to table this agenda item with no aforementioned desire to revisit it before the August recess was extremely disappointing to both the residents of Rydin Road, and those of us that have been working to present a plan that responds to their needs in a humane and restorative way.
One way I have supported Vice-Mayor Martinez has been to provide support for dialogue with the community about the sunset plan—specifically how to best gauge the individual needs of every Rydin resident. I was asked to develop a needs assessment to help us understand the barriers faced by each resident. One of the biggest critiques has been that the city has implemented a one-sided, single strategy approach that does not serve most Rydin residents. We need to recognize the diversity of individuals as well as their different needs. Some struggle with substance abuse issues resulting from poor access to proper healthcare, others simply are at an economic low point where they’ve been priced out of the city’s inflated housing market. We cannot continue to take a one-size-fits-all solution to help unhoused folks. This assessment is one way to figure out what specialized services might better fit their needs. Vice-Mayor Martinez has also expressed on multiple occasions his dissatisfaction with our reliance on a single-source solution. This survey provides us with ideas for how we might fill the gaps that continue to make it harder for people to transition back into traditional housing. We purposefully shaped this review in a way that would simultaneously speak to individual cases and to provide insight for infrastructure needs to address houselessness in Richmond in a preventative way.
As Councilmember McLaughlin added, “Exiting people isn’t the whole picture, we need to allow people to exit with dignity.” Part of this dignified process is making sure that we’re not just forcing these residents into shelters that they’ll eventually need to be removed from but creating individualized plans that sustain progress through continued assistance. Most are Richmond residents that have lost access to housing, contrary to the picture Councilmember Bates attempted to paint during that meeting. We need to support our neighbors in their times of need.