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Homelessness Update: June 2024

Posted on June 14, 2024

San Rafael among cities featured by CBS in preview of Supreme Court decision

CBS Sunday Morning interviewed San Rafael Mayor Kate Colin who spoke about the impacts of U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming Grants Pass vs. Johnson decision. The video, which was broadcast nationally on June 2, can be seen here.

On April 22, the Supreme Court heard the Grants Pass case, a constitutional challenge to cities’ ability to enact civil penalties on unhoused people for sleeping or camping on public property when there are no shelter options available. A decision is expected later this month.

Redevelopment of Downtown City-Owned Site as Affordable Housing

The City has entered into an exclusive negotiation agreement with Abode Housing Development, a nonprofit affordable housing development partner, to construct affordable housing for low-income residents on the city-owned property at 519 Fourth Street. The development is part of the city’s broader strategy to address homelessness and housing shortages.

Mayor Kate Colin emphasized the unique opportunity resulting from this city-owned property, saying: “With few sites available, transforming this city-owned warehouse into affordable housing aligns with the City Council’s ambitious affordable housing goals. We look forward to partnering with Abode, whose experience and commitment to community engagement make them the right partner to bring this project to fruition.”

Abode, a nonprofit with experience in creating supportive housing, was selected from three applicants following a competitive Request for Proposals process​​.

Update on the City’s Camping Ordinance

On May 6, 2024, the City Council passed Ordinance 2035, introducing new regulations for camping on public property by individuals experiencing homelessness. The ordinance became effective on June 5, 2024.  The City is conducting regular outreach to individuals in encampments, distributing informational flyers and FAQs in both English and Spanish, to help them understand and comply with the ordinance.

The Camping Ordinance permits camping on public land, so long as individuals comply with its spacing and manner regulations. New campsite size limits include up to 200 sq. ft. for one person and 400 sq. ft. for up to 4 people camping together. Additionally, the amended ordinance also includes smaller minimum distances required (10 ft.) from other campsites, and setbacks from private property lines, public infrastructure and a 250-foot setback from any school property.

Code Enforcement Hearings on Illegal Structures

In response to growing concerns over fences and living structures created in encampments, including a recent fire in an unauthorized structure that caused no injuries but damaged neighboring property, the City of San Rafael has initiated code enforcement cases against 39 illegal structures currently constructed on public properties and rights of way.

The City inspected the structures at homeless encampments on the northeast side of Andersen Drive between Irwin Street and Rice Drive, along Francisco Blvd West, and the Mahon Creek Path. Of these, 10 structures were brought into compliance and removed by occupants. The remaining 29 structures are now subject to an administrative hearing process. Following this, the hearing officer may issue orders to responsible parties to correct these violations, requiring the removal of the structures. All individuals required to remove a structure will be offered a tent and bedding materials as a replacement.

Seeking Proposals for Operational Services and Support

The City of San Rafael is soliciting proposals from qualified vendors to provide property/program management, health and sanitation services, and/or security services to a safe sleeping site and potential interim housing site in the City for individuals experiencing homelessness. The City is seeking vendors to provide these services beginning in July 2024 and continuing for up to three years in total, divided into two program phases:

  • In the first phase, the City will sanction an area for camping and make safety/sanitation improvements to the encampment area. This phase will operate as a low-barrier, housing-focused safe sleeping site.
  • Once it is feasible, the City will replace the sanctioned camp with a non-congregate housing-focused interim shelter program at a site still to be chosen within the City.

Both phases will include around the clock staffing through a professional nonprofit operator and a security contractor trained in de-escalation and harm reduction. The proposed program aims to provide unhoused individuals with convenient access to case managers and other service providers, while providing a service team with capacity to navigate every individual in on their housing pathway.

Earlier this Spring, Marin County Health and Human Services (HHS) and the City jointly received state funding to support up to 65 individuals experiencing homelessness in the Mahon Creek Area. This funding has made this proposed program possible. For more information and to view the full RFP, please visit Request for Proposals Released May 20, 2024.

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