The source of much of the information below has come from:
Kathleen Sullivan ~ GRIP Executive Director
Cesar Zepeda ~ President of Hilltop District Neighborhood Council and GRIP Director
Arto Rinteela ~ President of the Fairmede Hilltop Neighborhood Council
The Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP) has been a fixture in Richmond since 1966. According to their web site: “GRIP is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic coalition of congregations from varied faiths working together as a diverse and inclusive coalition dedicated to helping those of our community in need to transition to self-sufficiency. Our mission statement: “Responding to the Call to Service, GRIP transforms the lives of homeless, hungry and disenfranchised people.””
At their meeting of February 2nd, the Richmond City Council took action to pursue the Safe Park program at the Hilltop Mall or the Civic Center. Due to severe community pushback from the Hilltop community, at their meeting of February 23rd, the Council will revisit their decision and may consider selecting a different site.
GRIP is proposing that they be awarded the contract to set up and manage the proposed site in a city owned lot at Bissell and 22nd Street. This is directly across the street from GRIP’s headquarters.
The logistics of operating the program at that site will have to be worked out but GRIP is advocating that they are uniquely set up to address the specific needs of this program and the unsheltered community in Richmond.
Located in central Richmond, this site will be within easy access to public transportation through BART and AC Transit. Within a short walking distance or bike ride are
- medical facilities (Kaiser and the two Lifelong Urgent Care centers on Harbour Way and Macdonald Avenues)
- Catholic Charities of the East Bay Food Pantry
- the Family Justice Center
- the Richmond Library
- the Richmond City Hall
- Early Childhood Family Center, the RYSE Center
- the Richmond Emergency Food Pantry
- the West County Rehab Center
- Rich City Rides
- SOS! Richmond~Safe, Organized Spaces
- A number of grocery stores and bodegas
- smaller dining establishments
GRIP currently manages the Roomkey project at the Hilltop Marriott Hotel where nearly 200 unsheltered persons are housed (courtesy of the County and State funding).
GRIP also uses their commercial grade kitchens to prepare as many as 400 high quality meals at a time to deliver to the Marriott and elsewhere to feed the less fortunate. [
GRIP has designed Project Hope—a program designed specifically to utilize the Safe Park program and merge it with their own programs to help house, feed and provide support for at least a part of the unsheltered community in Richmond. GRIP wants to establish what they call the Hope District. This will include their own facility at 165 22nd Avenue, the Safe Park site across the street, and their 8 unit GRIP Veterans Building (an 8 unit apartment complex directly west of their main offices).
GRIP also wants the City to close the narrow and seldom used section of Carlson Boulevard directly south of their site between GRIP and the overhead BART tracks so it might be used for a controlled parking site for RVs and cars.
Part of GRIP’s plan calls for setting up an enclosed area on the south side of the site where dogs can be housed while their guardians are away at work or seeking services [Richmond has an ordinance where it is illegal to “own” a pet. At best, a person may be the “guardian” of their dog, cat or goldfish.]
There are still unanswered questions that need to be resolved as the Council discusses the GRIP option for their Safe Park program:
- The program requires that the site be paved. The Bissell Street site is currently unpaved. Who will pave the site? Who will pay for the paving private funding or will GRIP expect the taxpayers to fund the paving)? Will the paving be mere compacted gravel or will it be asphalt?
- Who will pay for bringing in the electrical units needed for the RVs to plug into?
- What kind of sanitary facilities will be provided?
- Since GRIP currently only has 4 shower facilities, and since the building is currently closed due to the COVID Sheltering restrictions, will GRIP bring in portable shower facilities?
- Even though this is largely a commercial area with minimal residential units nearby, within blocks there are houses and apartments with many of the residents unhappy with the homeless set up on the sidewalks in front of their homes and the cars parked in front of their homes with people living in them. What will GRIP do to appease their neighbors?
- With as many as 70 new residents just as “customers” [GRIP’s word] on the Safe Park site, will their kitchens have the capacity to provide food if necessary? How many of the new residents can they expect to take advantage of the free meal services?
- While the Safe Park program does not allow for dogs and children, GRIP wants to allow both. Will the City and/or the Council allow these changes to their program?