County of Marin - News Releases - Winter Shelter

For Immediate Release
December 02, 2019

Marin Prepares to Increase Shelter Bed Capacity

County Health teams with Homeward Bound for additional winter support

San Rafael, CA – For the second consecutive year, the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Novato-based nonprofit Homeward Bound of Marin are preparing to establish emergency shelter to supplement the 190 local year-round shelter beds during severe weather events. 

A view of the Marin Health and Wellness Center, with the sign in the foreground and building in the background.If more shelter beds are needed to serve homeless individuals during the rainy season, 80 more beds will be available at the HHS Wellness Campus on Kerner Boulevard in San Rafael.

The two partnering agencies currently have no plans to activate this week based on the latest weather forecasts. A series of weather indicators are monitored daily, including National Weather Service warnings and advisories, to determine risk for a life-threatening, severe weather event. Following program protocol, the decision to activate will be announced the day prior to opening.

When activation criteria are met, the 80-person Severe Weather Emergency Shelter will be located at the Marin HHS Health and Wellness Campus at 3240 Kerner Boulevard in San Rafael. 

In 2018, HHS added the Severe Weather Emergency Shelter plan to the County’s Extreme Temperature Emergency Annex. This year, based on community feedback and public health considerations, HHS revised activation criteria for the 2019-20 season (November 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020) as follows:

  • Average temperature overnight is forecast to be less than 38 degrees and conditions are projected for a minimum of three days, or; 
  • Forecast temperatures drop below 45 degrees for two consecutive days with hazardous conditions (e.g. greater than 1 inch of rain each day, flash flood watch/warning, wind chills or extreme temperature fluctuations), or;
  • Forecast temperatures drop below 40 degrees with hazardous conditions (e.g. greater than 1 inch of rain, a flash flood watch/warning, wind chills or extreme temperature fluctuations), or;
  • Hazardous air quality is forecast (an index greater than 300 based on a zero-to-500 scale).

In addition to sending an email to an extensive stakeholder list, HHS will also post activation plans online and will provide a recorded message at 415-473-6100. 

The additional facility is a low-barrier shelter, meaning that anyone will be welcome to stay if they agree to be respectful of other shelter residents and staff. 

“Our community efforts to house some of the most vulnerable among us has resulted in more people housed and more integration of services,” Homeward Bound Executive Director Mary Kay Sweeney said. “The Severe Weather Emergency Shelter will provide another layer of emergency response during particularly severe weather, allowing us to link people to our existing emergency shelter system.”

When activated, the shelter operates from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Buckelew Programs’ newly funded homeless outreach coordination team will conduct outreach to vulnerable populations. A hot dinner and a light breakfast are provided to visitors. Whistlestop, a San Rafael-based nonprofit, provides transportation to the nearby St. Vincent de Paul Society of Marin’s dining hall each morning. Bus passes are provided for people to return to their preferred location.

Marin County and its partners adopted the evidence-based Housing First approach to address homelessness and have implemented a coordinated entry system to prioritize permanent housing placement of people experiencing chronic homelessness. Through that partnership, 176 individuals have transitioned from chronic homelessness to permanent housing since October 2017.

Based on the program’s success, the Marin Housing Authority was recently awarded 50 additional housing vouchers by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The vouchers will be issued to clients prioritized through coordinated entry and will help to continue the pace at which County, HHS and its partners are helping those experiencing homelessness to find a permanent home.

Severe weather declarations will be made by the County Public Health Officer. As in past years, alternative arrangements will be made on-demand for unsheltered families.

For more information on the ongoing collaborative work and initiatives to address chronic homelessness, visit


Ashley Hart McIntyre
Homelessness Policy Analyst
Department of Health and Human Services

1776 E. Francisco Blvd.
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-3501
Email: Ashley Hart McIntyre
Marin HHS website