Rise up

RISC continues mission for housing, safety, well-being

George Copeland Jr. | 3/21/2024, 6 p.m.
The city of Richmond’s current and potential political leaders committed themselves to more action on affordable housing, mobile home repair ...
Hundreds of RISC members fill the pews of St. Paul’s Baptist Church during the annual Nehemiah Action Assembly on Tuesday evening. Photo by George Copeland Jr./Richmond Free Press

The city of Richmond’s current and potential political leaders committed themselves to more action on affordable housing, mobile home repair and replacement, and discussions on gun violence prevention Tuesday evening, during RISC’s 2024 Nehemiah Action Assembly.

The group, Richmonders Involved to Strengthen Our Communities, secured pledges from City Councilmembers Stephanie A. Lynch, Andreas D. Addison and Ann-Frances Lambert for an additional $2 million in mobile home funding in next year’s budget and a resolution guaranteeing money owed from the 2022-23 fiscal year would be added to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

“It is a true honor to serve alongside you and with you,” said Ms. Lynch, who agreed to patron the Trust Fund resolution and to ensure a mobile home fund amendment would be in the budget if it wasn’t already there.

She also charged the RISC members present to bring this same energy and collective organizing to other political offices outside the City of Richmond.

“It is not in any way equitable, just or Christ-like that we live in a country with so much and yet so many suffering with so little,” Ms. Lynch said. “If you live in Henrico, you live in Chesterfield, you live in other localities, I want you to push your electorate and challenge your elected leaders to do the same.”

Councilmembers Addison and Lambert agreed to co-patron the resolutions.

Councilmember Ellen F. Robertson also agreed to support efforts in improving affordable housing and supporting mobile home repair and replacement, though she said additional budget amendments might not be necessary.

The event brought hundreds of parishioners from throughout Richmond and from more than 20 member congregations to St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Henrico County, filling many of the sanctuary’s pews. Energized, it was obvious that they are eager to see their concerns addressed, along with progress on their goals as a coalition.

The commitments RISC presented seek to ensure the dedicated funding stream for the Trust Fund is fully followed through and supported after the City Council established the stream in 2021.

They also would provide further funding for the Mobile Home Repair Program that began last June with $800,000 in funds, and has so far completed work on 11 homes in the city with around 10 more underway.

Roughly 67 homes could be repaired and another six could be replaced with the additional funding, according to RISC.

“We are making a difference because we care about how people live,” said the Rev. Ralph Hodge of Second Baptist Church (Southside) and a RISC member. “We want everyone to be safe, alive and free.”

RISC also began the process of building partnerships with and securing commitments from candidates who hope to succeed Levar M. Stoney as mayor of Richmond.

Mr. Addison, former City Council President Michelle Mosby, security professional Maurice Neblett, community advocate Bridgette Whitaker, HR consultant firm CEO Garrett Sawyer and businessman Harrison Roday are set to attend a RISC roundtable discussion on gun violence prevention and a forum to share their plans for the office.

Ms. Whitaker was a very new addition to the candidates scheduled to appear at the assembly, while one of the slated mayoral candidates, former City Councilmember Chris Hilbert, dropped out of the race hours earlier.

The gun violence roundtable is of particular importance to RISC, who have sought for years to see a Group Violence Intervention solution implemented in Richmond to better tackle shootings deaths.

While efforts over the years to collaborate with Mayor Stoney on GVI have not been successful, the framework was adopted in Hopewell through a partnership with Real Life, a Richmond organization focused on recovery homes and gun violence reduction through mentorships who work closely with RISC.

Since the SAF (Safe, Alive and Free) program started in 2022, homicides decreased by 71% from June to December in Hopewell last year compared to similar time periods in 2022, according to Mike Zohab, violence prevention initiative program manager for Real Life.

Plans now are underway to bring GVI to Hopewell’s Tri Cities in the future, starting in Petersburg, and to collaborate with the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority on a GVI program in the city’s public housing communitiesthat could begin in June.

“We want what they are doing in Hopewell here in Richmond,” said the Rev. Marvin Gilliam of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church who serves as RISC’s co-president. “This gun violence campaign has been long and we recognize that, and yet the restoration and lives saved in the end will be well-worth the struggle.”

The candidates said they plan to attend RISC’s GVI Roundtable on Monday, May 20 and a Mayoral Candidates Forum on Thursday, Aug. 29.