|The Camping Ordinance - Not So
Scroogey After All?
December 23, 2001
After being thoroughly pilloried by the Bay
Area press and various advocates for the homeless and being awarded the
seasonal "scrooge" award by same, I would like to provide my own
perspective on the Richmond "camping" ordinance.
Contrary to some accusers, this ordinance was not planned to coincide with Christmas. It began with complaints from a number of Richmond residents nearly a year ago who felt that their use of public streets and parks was being adversely impacted by people who were making those same streets and parks their homes - and in the process engaging in activities that were a threat to public safety and health.
As a member of the Public Safety and Public Services Committee of the Richmond City Council, I participated in several meetings where the public was invited and social and health service professionals also participated. During the course of those hearings, which concluded only in October, we found out several things:
As discussion of the ordinance and of the related problems neared fruition, it became clear that Richmond had neither the resources nor the ability to solve a regional problem. We could have avoided a lot of negative publicity and done nothing. The status quo would have been the easy way out of this one.
But we didn't. We (the City Council) took some bold and positive steps:
We also passed a camping ordinance, which is much less draconian than reported. For a full copy of the ordinance and the mitigating measures directed by the City Council, see http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/Flash/Government/Ordinancepage.html . The ordinance does not, as one critic groused, make it illegal to carry a sleeping bag in public.
Again, contrary to popular belief (especially in the press), Richmond probably does more, per capita, for homeless than any city in the Bay Area. For information on various programs. See:
There are also other organizations such as these providing vital services for people who find themselves homeless in Richmond,
Most people in Richmond are not callous toward the homeless, and they participate generously with their gifts and their service in supporting these non-profit providers of services to the homeless and the needy. Instead of criticizing the Richmond City Council for taking action, how about taking action yourself by picking up the phone and calling GRIP at (510) 231-6884 or the Bay Area Rescue Mission at (510)215-4555 to find out how you can help by sending a check or pitching in this holiday season, or anytime.