San Rafael, CA— Preliminary numbers from the 2022 Point-in-Time Homeless Count show that Marin County was able to avert an expected sharp increase in homelessness in the past three years in the face of skyrocketing rents, inflation, and a once in a lifetime worldwide pandemic.
Photo credit: Jon Tyson
Despite significant investments in supportive housing for those with the highest needs and longest periods of homelessness, and emergency supports for those affected by the pandemic, overall homelessness in Marin increased by 8.4%. That represented 1,034 individuals in 2019 to 1,121 individuals in 2022.
“While we’re disappointed with the increased numbers despite all of our efforts, we’re not surprised,” said Board President Katie Rice. “We’re just beginning to recover from a pandemic emergency in which those with the least suffered the most.”
The County, along with its nonprofit partners, has led the transformation of our homelessness system of care over the past six years, in partnership with city and nonprofit partners, resulting in a permanent end to homelessness for more than 478 Marin residents since 2017.
“Homelessness is an issue we care deeply about and that is reflected in our ongoing and new investments to tackle this complex issue,” said Benita McLarin, Director of Marin County Health and Human Services. “Our most vulnerable residents are dealing with widening income inequality, high inflation, and a lack of affordable housing, which are continuing to drive individuals and families into homelessness.”
The County distributed significant funding during the pandemic including $1 million in County general funds, $2.5 million in Marin Community Foundation funds, and more than $35 million in state and federal funds for emergency rental assistance for those affected by COVID-19. Coupled with countywide and statewide eviction moratoriums and targeted rent freezes by the County and the cities of San Rafael, Novato, and San Anselmo, thousands of households were able to keep their homes despite unprecedented economic turmoil for many.
Key highlights from the preliminary numbers released today include:
- An 8.4% increase in homelessness since 2019 (up 87 from 1,034 to 1,121).
- A nearly 11% decrease in the total number of sheltered individuals (from 326 to 291) and a 17% increase in unsheltered individuals (from 708 to 830) due to a required shift to non-congregate shelter to reduce COVID-19 transmission during the pandemic.
- A 34% decrease in homeless veterans (from 99 to 65) which points to the efficacy of concentrated efforts with this key population.
- A 35% increase in family homelessness, which is of significant concern to County officials (from 54 to 73).
“Pre-pandemic, our dedication to Housing First led to a 28% decrease in chronic homelessness between 2017 and 2019,” said Gary Naja-Riese, Director of Marin’s Homelessness and Whole Person Care Division. “We know this approach works to reduce homelessness, especially among the most vulnerable and most visible, and will be the key to continuing to address homelessness as a proven, evidence-based strategy.”
Focus on Solutions to Address the Need
Marin County’s homeless system has housed 478 people in permanent supportive housing since October 2017, and the recent rate of supportive housing placements has increased by 90%. The County also provides ongoing supportive services for 243 formerly homeless individuals in permanent supportive housing; case management spots for 68 individuals in process of accessing housing; and 165 emergency shelter beds.
“As we presented to our Board in March, the County is planning to allocate over $10 million in new funding for countywide services related to homelessness, and $1.5 million in City/County partnership funds,” added Naja-Riese. “The County also continues to offer 50% cost-sharing with cities and towns in Marin for homeless services coordinated with County efforts and consistent with best practices.”
Supportive and Scattered Site Housing Supports
Through Project Homekey, the County has received approximately $24.6 million since 2020 to aid the purchase and redevelopment of 105 new units of supportive housing in San Rafael, Corte Madera, and Greenbrae. The County has also committed $20 million over 15 years for the ongoing development and operations of these units of permanent supportive housing.
“We know that the solution to homelessness is a home,” said Christine Paquette, Executive Director of St. Vincent De Paul Society of Marin County. “A vital aspect of this success is implementing the correct types of housing interventions to resolve homelessness and funding for supports and services to keep people housed.”
The work of Marin’s network of homelessness service providers, including St. Vincent de Paul Society, Ritter Center, Marin Housing Authority, Downtown Streets Team, Episcopal Community Services, Catholic Charities, Adopt A Family, Buckelew, Side by Side, the Center for Domestic Peace, and Homeward Bound, in collaboration with landlords, has resulted in dramatic increases in the supply of scattered-site permanent housing since 2016.
In 2022, Marin County will continue to increase the supply of PSH by at least 10% over the previous year’s total, resulting in at least 65 new PSH beds, pushing the countywide total to 714 units by the end of 2022. Since 2021, two new outreach grants to Community Action Marin and Downtown Streets Team have helped connect people to more than $3 million in new Rapid Rehousing funds.
A bright spot in the results was a significant reduction in military veteran homelessness, dropping from 99 individuals to 65 in the current count. This result shows the efficacy of deeper, long-term investments targeted to specific populations.
Since adopting the Built for Zero methodology for ending homelessness in 2017 (The Movement - Community Solutions), Marin County has seen a significant reduction in the number of veterans experiencing homelessness. Key partnerships have included the Department of Veterans Affairs HUD-VASH social workers, the Marin Housing Authority, Swords to Ploughshares, County of Marin staff, Homeward Bound of Marin’s transitional beds for veterans, and the St Vincent de Paul Society of Marin, who recently hired a veterans-specific outreach worker in partnership with a grant from Kaiser Permanente.
Marin’s coordinated system of care will continue to invest in proven solutions to reduce veteran’s homelessness.
“With amazing community encouragement and Novato community support, we look forward to breaking ground soon to build veterans housing on Hamilton’s decommissioned military base. How appropriate for veterans to come home on the grounds where veterans have served,” said Mary Kay Sweeney, Co-CEO, Homeward Bound of Marin. “We expect that once this veterans housing opens its doors, as a county, we will effectively be able to declare that we have ended veteran homelessness in our community — a timely and important milestone.”
The concerning rise in family homelessness from 54 to 73 families is likely the result of a combination of an actual increase in family homelessness due to pandemic conditions, the results of long-established shortages of affordable housing, and an intentional change in method designed to improve our understanding of this vulnerable population.
To address this, Marin HHS has launched new family homelessness programs, including added CalWORKs Housing Supports to move families back into housing quickly. Housing Based Case Management paired with vouchers is housing 29 higher-needs families and flexible funding from round three of the state’s Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention Grant Program will assist an additional 12 families. Further, an application was submitted to the state’s Family Homelessness Challenge Grant, a state grant to local jurisdictions and continuums of care to serve additional family households with dependent minors that are experiencing homelessness.
About the PIT Count
“This year’s count occurred on February 17. The count is based on visual observations of unsheltered individuals and groups, as well as a census of people in shelters,” said Carrie Sager, Senior Homelessness Program Coordinator with the County’s Homelessness and Whole Person Care Division, who led the effort in collaboration with non-profit homelessness service providers. “The 2021 count was delayed to 2022 due to the pandemic.”
Continuum of Care in the U.S. conducts a Point-In-Time Count on a single day every other year. Marin used methodology recommended by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Applied Survey Research (ASR), a social research firm with extensive experience in homeless enumeration and needs assessment, partnered with Marin HHS and the Marin County Continuum of Care (CoC) to canvass every census tract of the County.
Applied Survey Research also followed up with face-to-face surveys to produce a Point-in-Time Count of homelessness in Marin County. More detailed information based on one-on-one surveys, including demographic data, will be available this summer.
While the nine counties of the Bay Area are sharing their own preliminary PIT count numbers independently, they have also collaborated on a regional press release in recognition of the regional nature of this issue, to provide context for each county's numbers and details about each county's plans for release.
HUD’s broad definition of homeless includes those in a place not designed for sleeping (e.g., car, park, abandoned building) and those in a publicly or privately operated shelter (e.g., congregate shelter, transitional housing, motels paid for by charitable organizations, or by government programs for low-income individuals).