Homeless eviction in Richmond tugs at onlookers' heartstrings

For months now a small group of people has lived in this homeless encampment near the intersection of 22nd Street and Carlson Blvd in Richmond. City leaders notified the group they needed to go. But while people tried to quickly pack up all their belongings, some onlookers say they felt the group's pain.

"It takes me back to when I was homeless. It's like I feel for them, but hey, they got to make up in their minds that they want better and deserve better," says Curtis Jones of Richmond. 

To give those who want better another chance. Richmond police stepped in.   

"I reached out last week to some of the community members here if they would like some help," said Richmond Police Mental Health Officer Jesse Sousa

He serves on the Contra Costa Mental Health Evaluation Team. Normally it's Sousa's job to follow up with people living with mental illness that have come in contact with police.  

This time he's being proactive and his actions possibly saved a woman's life. "We did open up the tent and did notice that she was really numb and she had some other medical things going on and she really needed help right then and there," says Sousa.  

That woman was taken away in an ambulance. RPD, teamed up with coordinated outreach referral and engagement or CORE to help others in this encampment find shelter.  "They are able to get services to have a place and a roof over their head and receive case management services, says Valerie Sloven of CORE.

A homeless man who goes by the name Sheik told us the help you're promised isn't always what it seems.  

"I'd like to accept all the help we can get, but you know what, it's a lot of smoke and mirrors. A lot of smoke and mirrors," says Sheik

Three to four people from the encampment will receive services. However, many more would have liked to. The problem is they have animals, and many shelters won't accept them.  

"I've been the owner of dogs and you know what? As far as I'm concerned they are a part of what helped me stay alive," says Sheik.  

"The dog, the animal is going to be taken care of and it's as simple as that, but you got to put self-first, says Jones.  

"We are trying to provide more services to help people who have animals," says Sloven.  

For now, most that stayed in the encampment declined the offers of service, saying they'll take their chances, but do appreciate the offer for help.