San Rafael, CA – 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 and St. Vincent de Paul’s HOT case management teams, 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.