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Homelessness

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Lynn Murphy
Mental Health Resource Liaison

1400 Fifth Avenue
San Rafael, CA 94901

Supporting San Rafael's Unhoused Community

The City of San Rafael remains committed to protecting the health and safety of community members and employees, while also striving to deliver public services to the greatest extent possible. The City does not directly provide homeless services or programming, but we partner closely with the County of Marin and local service providers to ensure that people experiencing homelessness have access to the resources they need. For the latest updates on what's available in our community, please visit this page

Marin County Emergency Rental Assistance Program

For any household that is looking for resources to prevent becoming homeless, the Marin County Rental Assistance online application is open. If you already received rental assistance from their program you will need to re-apply. Low-income Marin County residents can apply to receive 80% of unpaid back rent due between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021. Information on income limits can be found on their Tenants: Frequently Asked Questions handout, and more information is available here. For any questions, please email RentalAssistance@MarinCounty.org or call (415) 473-2223.

Homelessness in San Rafael

The City of San Rafael has been a leader in Marin County on addressing homelessness.  Between 2017 and 2019, San Rafael saw a 30% decline in unsheltered homelessness, and countywide there was a 28% decline in long-term, chronic homelessness. This page provides an overview of the various programs, partners, and strategies the City supports.

If you've been sleeping on the streets or in your car for two weeks or longer, individuals please call the Coordinated Entry help line at 415-473-4663, and families please call Homeward Bound of Marin at 415-457-2115. Additionally, please note that the City of San Rafael has adopted a variety of renter protection policies to help prevent homelessness in the first place. You can learn more here.

Frequently Asked Questions

The City of San Rafael remains committed to protecting the health and safety of community members and employees, while also striving to deliver public services to the greatest extent possible. The City does not directly provide homeless services or programming, but we partner closely with the County of Marin and local service providers to ensure that people experiencing homelessness have access to the resources they need.

Find information about City of San Rafael initiatives around homelessness.

For the latest updates on services available to our community through the County of Marin.

San Rafael continues to be a countywide leader in the support for development individuals experiencing homelessness. In November, the City Council allocated $1.3M in funding from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to support the County’s purchase of 3301 Kerner Boulevard through the State’s Project Homekey initiative, which will create 44 units of permanent supportive housing. In June, the City Council authorized up to $260,000 in funding for additional social workers to help in housing placement. 

Over the last year, the City of San Rafael has partnered with Caltrans, the County of Marin, CHP, and multiple service organizations to provide enhanced services for individuals experiencing homelessness. This innovative partnership has enabled the City to create a designated “service support area” launched July 6th, 2021. 

Since October of 2017, the County, the City, and local partners in Marin County have housed over 384 of the most vulnerable people experiencing long-term homelessness in our community. Housing and services are the solution to homelessness. 

Over the last year, the City of San Rafael has partnered with Caltrans, the County of Marin, CHP, and multiple service organizations to provide enhanced services for individuals experiencing homelessness. This innovative partnership has enabled the City to create a designated “service support area”. This designated space will provide security, restrooms, handwashing stations, garbage pick-up, regular outreach and service referrals, and other quality of life amenities. It will also allow for the continuing of work with local partners to identify permanent paths to housing. For more information on San Rafael’s efforts to support our unhoused community visit www.cityofsanrafael.org/departments/homelessness/. 

A benefit of the Service Support Area is that it creates a convenient place for our community partners to provide services and they are doing so, some weekly and some multiple times per week. There are many great examples, including: 

  • Downtown Streets Team is providing weekly site clean-up, mobile shower service, outreach, and recruitment efforts 
  • Ritter Center provided mobile medical services 
  • Marin County Health and Human Services provided a mobile vaccination clinic as well as ongoing general assistance and case management 
  • Marin Humane Society provided a mobile veterinary clinic 

In addition to those, other partners providing services have been the Care Team, the Spahr Center, the Salvation Army, and members of the Marin Street Chaplaincy. 

Currently, there are 50 individuals living within the Service Support Area. 100% of occupants were chronically homeless in San Rafael and 14 are now receiving case management support. Marin County Health and Human Services has confirmed that having individuals in a safe place where their social worker can work with them is already getting people moved into housing options. In the last month, eight individuals have been placed into housing including moves to Project Roomkey hotel rooms, the Homeward Bound run emergency shelter (which will ultimately be 44 new permanent supportive housing units), and through the housing voucher process. 

San Rafael continues to be a countywide leader in the development of new housing options for people experiencing homelessness. This includes: 

  • City Council allocated $1.3M in funding to support the County’s purchase of 3301 Kerner Boulevard through the State’s Project Homekey initiative. (which will create 44 units of permanent supportive housing) 
  • · City Council authorized up to $260,000 in funding for additional social workers to help in housing placement and directed staff to continue to vet the idea of a safe sleeping pilot. 
  • The County of Marin is leasing hotel rooms in San Rafael to provide interim shelter for people experiencing homelessness through the State’s Project Roomkey initiative. 

Project Roomkey is State of California initiative that has provided an estimated 15,600 motel and hotels rooms for people experiencing homelessness statewide and who were vulnerable to COVID-19 due to preexisting conditions, including over 140 here in Marin. 

What is Project Homekey? In June of 2021, the Governor announced “Project Homekey”, which set aside approximately $600 million for the acquisition of hotels, motels, and other existing buildings for both interim and permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness and who are vulnerable to COVID-19. 

The City Council approved roughly $260,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to go towards additional Case Workers through the County of Marin (also known as case managers) to help people take advantage of the housing vouchers made available through the federal stimulus program. These Case Workers are being hired and deployed in the City to help people resolve their homelessness.  

Why is there homelessness in San Rafael? From 2017 to 2019, 80% of counties in California witnessed increased in homelessness. However, Marin was not one of them. Over that same period of time, Marin County had a 7% overall decrease, a 28% decrease in chronic homelessness, and San Rafael saw a 30% decrease in unsheltered homelessness. 

Work remains, but our strategy is getting measurable results. 

People become homeless for a wide variety of reasons, yet every person experiencing homelessness has one thing in common: they lack housing. Despite this somewhat obvious fact, providing housing is sometimes the last issue communities prioritize. Instead, people experiencing homelessness often hear, “We can provide housing for you, but … 

  • You need to get sober first.” 
  • You need to get a job first.” 
  • You need to take medication first.”  
  • You need to progress through x, y and z programs first.”  

Housing First turns this strategy on its head. People are placed directly into housing as the first intervention, and then social workers help people address all of the other issues that might have led to that person’s homelessness in the first place. 

Between October of 2017 and the spring of 2020, our community housed close to 200 chronically homeless people through Housing First. 

For the vast majority of people who become homeless, it is a brief, one-time experience that usually resolves itself in a matter of weeks or month. However, for approximately 1/4 of the people experiencing homelessness in Marin County are chronically homeless. Chronic homelessness is long-term homelessness that accompanied by a disability (e.g. mental illness, physical disability, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse disorder). 

Most people experiencing homelessness in Marin cite an economic reason for their homelessness. However, for the minority of people experiencing chronic homelessness, over 70% report experiencing some type of emotional or psychiatric challenge. Sadly, the mental health system in this country has been severely eroded over the last few decades and new laws make it harder to provider services for people who are extremely sick and refuse help. 

I’ve heard most homeless people aren’t from Marin, is that true? According to the 2019 Homeless Point-in-Time Count, 73% of people currently experiencing homelessness in Marin report living in Marin prior to losing their housing. Across the nine Bay Area counties, 70-85% of people experiencing homelessness in a given county also lost their housing in that county. Homelessness is a local issue. 

Are most homeless people in San Rafael? According to the 2019 Homeless Point-in-Time Count, over 70% of people experiencing in Marin County were located OUTSIDE of San Rafael. 

In January of every odd year, the federal government requires communities across the country to conduct “point-in-time” counts of every person experiencing homelessness. On January 28, 2019, there were 1,034 people experiencing homelessness in Marin, down from 1,117 in 2017 and 1,309 in 2015. You can view the executive summary or the full report. 

The best way to assist people experiencing homelessness in Marin is to donate or volunteer directly through social service agencies and community groups working with our community. 

Please do not donate directly to the Service Support Area as the bulk of donations are discarded and contribute to the collection of debris at the site. · Homeward Bound Marin – In addition to being Marin’s primary emergency shelter provider, Homeward Bound also operates 353 units of supportive housing units, provides medical respite care, and provides job training opportunities. · St Vincent de Paul Marin – In Marin since 1946, St. Vincent’s does much more than just provide 200,000 warm meals every year at its Free Dining Room on B Street. · Downtown Streets Team – Downtown Streets Team is a work experience program that provides volunteer opportunities for men and women experiencing homelessness. · Ritter Center – The Ritter Center is Marin’s primary healthcare provider for people experiencing homelessness. · Adopt A Family Marin – Adopt A Family of Marin works to prevent homelessness and provide stability for Marin families in need. 

Ending chronic homelessness in Marin

Community Partners

In Marin since 1946, St. Vincent’s does much more than just provide 200,000 warm meals every year at its Free Dining Room on B Street. St. Vincent’s provides homelessness prevention services to over 1,000 households a year, manages the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) to address chronic homelessness, and hosts Community Court – a court diversion program.

In addition to being Marin’s primary emergency shelter provider, Homeward Bound also operates 353 units of supportive housing units, provides medical respite care saving the community $2.5M a year in medical costs, and provides job training opportunities through its Fresh Starts Culinary Academy and Wagster social enterprise.

Downtown Streets Team is a work experience program that provides volunteer opportunities for men and women experiencing homelessness. The San Rafael team has provided over 60,000 hours of beautification and cleanup services and helped almost 100 people regain employment. DST has also taken over management of the Marin Mobile Care mobile shower program.

The Ritter Center is Marin’s primary healthcare provider for people experiencing homelessness. Serving approximately 1,500 unhoused people at their clinic in Downtown San Rafael, Ritter specializes in providing wraparound medical, psychiatric, case management, and behavior health support to Marin’s most vulnerable.

Adopt A Family of Marin works to prevent homelessness and provide stability for Marin families in need. We provide financial assistance for rent, security deposits, utility payments, food vouchers and auto repair.

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