Homelessness in Marin
Homelessness in Marin is a serious issue for the county. The crisis traces to the extremely high housing prices in the area. Because of the tough real estate market, a living situation can often become unaffordable and out of reach for many of the poorer citizens in the county. That’s when homelessness occurs. Researchers from marincounty.org “found 1,117 homeless living on the streets of Marin County” during a survey conducted in January 2017. (The next county-wide point-in-time survey will be conducted in January 2019.)
However, there are many people doing meaningful work to help with this dilemma that our county struggles with. In particular, the cities of Novato and San Rafael, where homelessness is the biggest problem, have been making a good effort. According to marincounty.org, the Ritter Center is “San Rafael’s largest provider of primary healthcare services, permanent supportive housing, case management, and day services (food pantries, lockers, showers, laundry and mail) to those who otherwise could not afford it.” When it comes to the city of Novato, marincounty.org found that Homeward Bound is the “chief provider of shelter, housing and support services for homeless families and individuals, including veterans. They serve approximately 1,300 people per year in 16 inter-related residential programs.”
I have been privileged to work with two of the homeless organizations serving our county, and found it very fulfilling. First, I assembled and delivered bag lunches and hygiene kits to the St. Vincent de Paul Society dining hall in San Rafael. The lunches and kits will be distributed to dozens of people in need. I also volunteered at the Fireside Apartments in Mill Valley, which provide permanent housing for very low-income families and seniors. I helped set up for the residents’ Christmas gathering, served food, and then assisted with clean-up. This kind of service directly impacts our county’s homeless population, and I believe it is the most effective. Even though there are great organizations that are working hard to reduce the number of homeless people in our county, we citizens should not just sit back and do nothing. Change starts with action, and if you want to help, you have to go out and do something to directly support the cause. Find out what you can do to take action here.
Although there has been an improvement in the last few years, we have to keep working to get homeless people off the streets. In particular, we have to look out for the chronically homeless, who are the people who have been living without permanent housing for a year or more. General homelessness may have gone down, but the county’s mission will not be complete until we reverse the direction chronic homelessness has taken in the last few years: “The number of chronically homeless increased from 281 to 329 from 2015 to 2017,” according to marincounty.org.
The chronically homeless people in the county are often forced to go to extreme measures to ensure safety and shelter for themselves. According to marinij.com, “Of the 1,117 Marin homeless counted, nine were found in abandoned buildings, 86 were on anchor-outs, 183 were in transitional housing, 185 were on the street, 226 were in an emergency shelter and 428 were in vans, cars, or recreational vehicles.” In addition, they found that “In 2017, there were 75 Marin families with 200 family members experiencing homelessness, representing 18 percent of the total homeless population. Eight of those families with a total of 30 members were unsheltered.”
The fact that helpless families on the streets of Marin are having to take refuge in places like abandoned buildings and cars is simply heartbreaking. No one should ever have to go through such hard times. We privileged citizens of Ross take our shelter for granted all the time, but for many families in the county, the struggle for safety and security is a reality.