A recent article in this paper titled, "City Council moves to evacuate Richmond housing project, ignores warnings of fiscal danger," once again provided a slanted, nonjournalistic take on the Richmond City Council's attempt to deal with a serious crisis involving housing in the city.

Three-quarters of the article focused on the doom and gloom of the decision, burying the real story: substandard and unsafe conditions of the housing and the need to resolve this.

This shortsighted reporting continues to exacerbate the inability to have an honest discussion about the situation of housing in the Richmond community and the unique steps the council is attempting to take to face them.

Likewise, Tom Barnidge's March 19 column, "Long way from a resolution to Richmond housing problems," questions the council's recent steps to evacuate the Hacienda complex, perhaps the most troubled site in the city.

In Barnidge's bizarre calculus, the lived experiences of the more than 75 residents who testified in the council chamber about the horrific conditions is outweighed by Councilman Tom Butt's blithe assertion that he's talked to some "people living there now who don't want to leave." Even the extensive reporting of Barnidge's own colleague, Robert Rogers, fades in importance compared to one councilman's reported conversations with "people."

Once again, the paper misses the real story: the serious and dire housing crisis our community faces and the need to address it with bold action.

A recent independent study by CoreLogic, reported in Forbes magazine, found that 6.4 million houses, or 13 percent of all houses nationally are worth less than the mortgage (underwater). Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay has testified that approximately one-half of mortgages in Richmond are underwater.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics pegged the unemployment rate in Richmond last November at 11.9 percent, higher than the California average rate of 8.5 percent, and far higher than the national average rate of 6.7 percent.

No surprise then, that the Census Bureau reports that the poverty rate in Richmond (17.9 percent) is also higher than California's (15.3 percent) and the nation's (14.9 percent).

According to the Rise Together Initiative, recently endorsed unanimously by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, the poverty rate for children in Richmond matches the rate for adults.

As public servants within Contra Costa County and around the state, we see every day the inhumane struggle that the lack of safe, stable, quality housing causes in communities of need.

Our conservators often have to track down clients in the streets, attempting to provide needed mental health service to a community without an address. Our children's mental health workers see desperate families where children's growth and development are directly affected by their beggared housing conditions.

Our county workers struggle to keep up with the growing needs and number of homeless American veterans, approximately 25 percent of whom live in California. Our Housing Authority employees do what they can for a community distressed by a lack of jobs that pay above-poverty wages, by high unemployment, and by the consequences of predatory, bank-induced foreclosure crises.

We cannot lift up our communities without the stability of a safe, sanitary place to live for our residents. This is the core principle of the housing struggle in Richmond and all our communities. This paper and the rest of the media should focus on telling the real story, the whole story, not the stories of their corporate-elected friends.

As a community, we should be having a rigorous and thoughtful discussion about how to provide safe and affordable housing for all those in desperate need.

Antonio Alcocer is a mental health worker and member of Public Employees Union, Local 1. Matt Mason is the supervising business agent of the Richmond Office for Public Employees Union, Local 1.