Gretchen Rydin wants to “speak less and listen more.”
A therapist and social worker who has lived in Littleton for two years, Rydin is running for the at-large seat in Littleton's mail-in election, seeking to work with the city's community to solve issues that she said no one person can take on alone.
One such challenge is homelessness.
Rydin has taken a diverging stance from her opponent, Krista Kafer, who has called for a more “tough love” approach to the city's homeless population. Rydin said she has been in discussions with Littleton's police on ways the department can increase social workers responding to mental health crisis.
She said the solution is to not kick people out of the city.
“We don't want to send the message that you're not welcome,” she said. “That's a horrible message for any human being to have. Littleton is a place of welcome … everybody can belong here … these people are humans.”
Homelessness is a complex issues, Rydin said, and added that it's not always just about seeing people on the street.
“That's the visible image of homelessness, but there's a lot of invisible homelessness,” she said. “And that's folks who are sleeping on couches and we know that's not healthy to their lifestyles. We know there are men and women who are in violent relationships and that's the only place they can stay safe from their partner.”
Rydin also said that individuals may refuse help from agencies because of bad experiences they may have had with those agencies.
As a social worker and a therapist, Rydin said she will take the time needed to understand perspectives and aligning with community concerns.
“Whether it's writing letters or calling me or speaking in public meetings, I want to make sure that all of our residents feel heard,” she said.
Supporting immigrants and refugees is also another area that Rydin sees as needing more attention.
She said that if elected she would work to reverse the council's decision to defund the Littleton Immigration Resources Center. The center, housed in Bemis Library, has for more than a decade offered low-cost assistance to legal immigrants seeking citizenship.
“I'd love to see some expansion of that programming as well,” she said.
The center's defunding comes at a crucial time as the Denver metro area is anticipating up to 2,000 refugees from Afghanistan.
“This is a really important population,” she said, adding that some of the refugees coming to the U.S served as interpreters.
“They did a lot for us, so we need to make sure we're supporting them,” she said.
Rydin ultimately hopes her “talk less, listen more” approach will show voters that they will be heard by her as a councilmember.
“We need people we trust, who we believe in, who are empathetic and understanding,” she said. “Connection is one of the most important things. Let's bring that into civics, into local government.”