Marin’s Sharp Decline in Homelessness Confirmed

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The Marin County Department of Health and Human Services has cultivated relationships with many local partnering municipalities and agencies to make progress on homelessness.

Final Point-in-Time Count report marks progress made since 2017

Final statistics from the Point-in-Time Homelessness Count that took place in January confirm that the Marin County Department of Health and Hu­man Services (HHS) and its partners have reduced chronic homelessness by 28 percent since 2017.

On January 28, teams of vol­unteers canvassed the county to gather data about people ex­periencing homelessness on a single day.

Marin HHS and partners dis­cussed the preliminary num­bers, strategies, and initiatives that have made this significant progress possible, most notably Housing First, at a press con­ference on May 8. The Marin County Homeless Count and Survey Comprehensive Re­port, released July 31, captures more detailed geographic and demographic data about people experiencing homelessness in Marin.

Housing First is a nationally and globally recognized best practice for addressing home­lessness. The approach recog­nizes a person’s housing need first, then surrounds them with the support necessary to achieve stability and independence. Since October 2017, Marin HHS and its partners have per­manently housed 162 chroni­cally homeless residents.

“A key component to our success has been our ability to create new housing for people experiencing chronic homeless­ness by pairing Marin Housing Authority’s Housing Choice Vouchers with Ritter Center’s Whole Person Care case man­agement team, who work close­ly with clients and landlords to resolve problems to keep clients successfully housed,” said Kimberly Carroll, Deputy Director of the Marin Housing Authority.

The report also indicates that Marin’s emergency shelter sys­tem is reaching more vulnerable people. Thanks to a joint effort of Homeward Bound, Marin HHS, and the Marin Commu­nity Foundation, Marin’s emer­gency shelter for single adults is also implementing Housing First practices. So far in 2019, more people who are chroni­cally homeless are accessing shelter than ever before. That reduces the number of highly vulnerable people sleeping out­doors and increases the number with access to services connect­ing them with steady housing.

“Housing First is a practice with 30 years of evidence be­hind it, but implementing it here at home took a big leap of faith,” said Ashley Hart McIntyre, Marin HHS Homelessness Pol­icy Analyst. “The numbers are in, and it’s working.”

Other successes highlighted by the report:

Family homelessness is down 28 percent;

Youth homelessness is down 11 percent;

The total count of people experiencing homelessness in Marin is 1,034 individuals, a 7 percent reduction. This is es­pecially notable given signifi­cant increases in homelessness across other Bay Area counties.

The report also highlighted areas in which more work is necessary. Though San Rafael and Novato both saw signifi­cant reductions in unsheltered homelessness (30% and 13%, respectively), other areas, like Richardson Bay and West Marin, saw increases. Marin HHS is working closely with partners in those regions to expand work begun in 2016 to identify each person experienc­ing chronic homelessness and connect them with housing.

The report also shows a con­tinued need to advance racial equity, a leading priority for both Marin HHS and the Marin County Board of Supervisors. As in most American commu­nities, residents who identified as Black or African Ameri­can were overrepresented in the homeless population; they make up 2.8 percent of Marin’s population but 17 percent of the homeless population.

“This overrepresentation is due to a long and complex lo­cal and nationwide history of racism and housing discrimina­tion,” said Ken Shapiro, Direc­tor of Marin HHS’s Whole Per­son Care program.

Some equity strategies al­ready employed include a focus on ensuring people of color are not inadvertently screened out when prioritizing vulnerable people for housing, expanding successful initiatives in targeted areas of the county, and building relationships with partners who have long histories of working with these Marin populations.

Finally, the report confirmed that nearly three-quarters of people experiencing homeless­ness in Marin are locals. “Those statistics are consistent with similar reports nationwide,” said Carrie Ellen Sager, HHS’ Homelessness Program Coor­dinator. “By and large, people who become homeless stay where they have connections. This is a local problem, and these are our neighbors.”

Carroll said partnering agen­cies are encouraged by the new evidence of the program suc­cess. “We’re very proud,” she said. “It’s all about a great team working together with a shared vision to end chronic homeless­ness.”

Marin HHS would particu­larly like to thank its partners the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Marin, Homeward Bound of Marin, Ritter Center, Buck­elew Programs, the City of San Rafael, the Downtown Streets Team, HHS Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, and the Marin Housing Author­ity, whose representatives meet each week to break down the barriers to ending homeless­ness in Marin.

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