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Homelessness and Housing: February 2024 Update

Posted on February 22, 2024

City Surveys Individuals in Encampments

In December 2023, the City partnered with local service providers to conduct a needs assessment survey in San Rafael’s largest encampments. The survey teams compiled 60 responses, representing more than 80% of the individuals in the Mahon Creek area encampment.

The results documented the important fact that people experiencing homelessness in San Rafael are long-term residents of the City.  66% of respondents have lived in San Rafael for more than five years, with 35% living in the city more than 20 years, and 31% between 5-20 years. Only about 12% (7 of 60) arrived in the City in the last year.

The survey results also demonstrated the need for more social services to navigate people to housing.  The majority of respondents (45 individuals) expressed interest in case management if it was available, but only 10 report currently receiving case management. Most participants would accept interim housing while waiting for permanent placements, with 42% preferring a motel in the interim and 22% preferring non-congregate shelter.

The results of this survey were used for a January 2024 County-City Encampment Resolution Funding (ERF) 3 joint grant application, which requested funding for additional case management, interim housing, and basic health and safety measures in the Mahon Creek area encampment. ERF-3 is a State grant for jurisdictions that funds programs and services that reduce and resolve encampments. The City has successfully received funding through the program’s previous two rounds. The State has targeted late March for its announcement of funding awards.

SAFE Team Pilot Program

The City of San Rafael is nine months into its three-year alternative response pilot, and our SAFE team is providing daily mental health support in the community.

In March 2023, the San Rafael “SAFE” (Specialized Assistance For Everyone) program launched under contract with operator Petaluma People Services Center (PPSC). The SAFE Team consists of an Emergency Medical Technician and a Crisis Intervention Specialist responding to people who need crisis counseling, shelter, transportation, or minor medical care in the field. After SAFE responds, a SAFE Team Navigator follows up with referrals to social and mental health services.

SAFE benefits public safety by keeping police officers, firefighters, and paramedics available for emergencies. The SAFE Team provides emergency response for mental health, addiction, and homelessness, non-emergency response for people in need, and proactive community outreach to help ensure individuals do not end up needing a higher level of care.


To reach the SAFE team, call 415-458-SAFE (7233).

An emergency dispatcher will determine if your situation requires the SAFE Team; first responders such as police, fire, or paramedics; or a combination of both.  The City recommends that all residents program this number into their phones.

The SAFE Team is available 12 hours per day (8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.), seven days a week, 365 days per year.

Litigation Update: Boyd v. City of San Rafael

The City of San Rafael continues to work toward resolving the ongoing litigation regarding the City’s Ordinance 2030 – camping on public property. The City and the plaintiffs have been meeting regularly to discuss details related to the City’s implementation of its ordinance and other matters to resolve the case. While much of these discussions are confidential due to the ongoing case, the City can share that the discussions are productive and positive.

Downtown Streets Team

In 2023, the Downtown Streets Team (DST) expanded their efforts with support from Marin County and the City of San Rafael. DST provides a volunteer work experience program for people currently or formerly experiencing homelessness, while also providing case management and housing placement assistance. DST has worked to clean Downtown San Rafael since 2013, and this year’s expanded efforts include outreach and clean-up at encampment sites and the Canal neighborhood. A total of 168,325 gallons of debris were removed from the Downtown and Canal neighborhoods, alongside encampment areas within San Rafael.

DST members and direct service staff have had a tremendously positive impact on people experiencing homelessness this past year. Across Marin County, 29 members/clients found a place to call home in 2023.  Six members were placed in DST’s supported employment program, Streets Team Enterprises (STE), receiving training and a transitional paying job as a steppingstone to lasting employment in the workforce. 93% of DST’s San Rafael Team Members report an improved sense of self-esteem and greater self-worth since joining the Team.

To learn more about DST, check out the website at https://www.streetsteam.org/ or reach out to Zoë Neil, the Director of DST Marin County at zoe@streetsteam.org.

How can you help? 

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.

  • Homeward Bound Marin – In addition to being Marin’s primary emergency shelter provider, Homeward Bound also operates 353 units of supportive housing, provides medical respite care, and provides job training opportunities.
  • St Vincent de Paul Society of Marin – In Marin since 1946, St. Vincent’s provides a free dining room that serves 200,000 warm meals every year, and also provides housing assistance through its Housing Help Desk.  Vinnies provides support in a crisis through its Housing Outreach Team, as well as ongoing case management.
  • 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.


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