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Homelessness in Richmond has nearly doubled in three years

homeless encampment, west oakland.jpg
Thomas Hawk
Flickr / Creative Commons
Homelessness continues to grow throughout the Bay Area. But no city in the region has seen as significant a rise in unhoused people since 2019 as Richmond.

Homelessness throughout the Bay Area has expanded dramatically since the start of the pandemic. But no city has seen quite as significant a spike in its unhoused population as Richmond.

Newly-released data from the annual point-in-time count – which aims to identify every person living in a shelter, vehicle, tent, or other makeshift structure – indicates that homelessness there has nearly doubled over the last three years, with a current count of 632 unhoused individuals. For a city of only 110,000, the uptick is especially striking.

Approximately 90 percent of the people surveyed were at least 25 years old. About three-quarters of them had lived in the county for more than a decade and 12 percent were currently unemployed.

Richmond Mayor Tom Bates placed much of the blame for the crisis on four councilmembers – collectively known as the Richmond Progressive Alliance, or RPA – who’ve advocated policies that prioritize keeping homeless encampments open and serviced. He’s claimed that the use of government funds for such services, rather than keeping people in homes, has proven “ineffective.”

But Councilmember Claudia Jimenez, one of the four who Bates criticized, said the mayor’s framing was misguided. She said calling the issue an “RPA problem” is wrong, and it overlooks the city’s efforts to support county and state leaders tasked with rectifying issues of housing and health.

She said that real progress is being made, and that more county services, rather than less, are what’s needed to support people struggling with homelessness.

Raphael Cohen was part of KALW's Summer Journalism Training Program in 2022. He produces news spots and work for Crosscurrents.