County of Marin - News Releases - Reducing Homelessness

For Immediate Release
October 24, 2018

Collaboration Key to Reducing Marin Homelessness

Supervisors devote public workshop to important humanitarian issue

San Rafael, CA – Although Marin County continues to address homelessness as an ongoing priority, much progress has been made the past few years by local municipal governments and nonprofits to collaborate and assist with placement services for everybody living in Marin. That was the summary of a Board of Supervisors public workshop on homelessness hosted October 23 at the Marin County Civic Center.

Homelessness analyst Ashley Hart McIntyre addresses the Board of Supervisors during the public workshop on October 23, 2018.Homelessness analyst Ashley Hart McIntyre (center) addresses the Board of Supervisors during the public workshop on October 23.
At the three-hour workshop, staff from the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services emphasized the effectiveness of its relatively new Whole Person Care Division and the adoption of the Housing First initiative. Both steps were taken in 2017. Also, the County has debuted a new website devoted to homelessness assistance.

“We are not alone in facing these challenges,” said Board President Damon Connolly, the District 1 Supervisor who serves on a homelessness planning committee with District 2 Supervisor Katie Rice. “We are committed to best practices that have been successful in other communities. Addressing homelessness is not a one-size-fits-all. It is a one-person-at-a-time effort to find housing and provide the kinds of supportive services that will make that person successful in staying in housing and moving forward with their lives.” 

Rice said she was almost brought to tears by the spirited teamwork that has developed since local agencies decided to take a collective approach to the issue.

“Could anyone have imagined three years ago that we would be sitting here today talking about the progress that has been made, talking about the challenges ahead, but most of all talking about it together as one team from all these different entities – public, private, nonprofit – working together?” she asked. “It’s pretty stunning. … I’m so impressed.”

Housing First prioritizes placing chronically homeless people in housing without requirement of factors such as employment and sobriety. As proven in other communities, Housing First participants are more likely to have improved health outcomes and stay housed, employed and sober. The County is collaborating with local municipalities and agencies on a Housing First approach, using more than 100 successful similar programs worldwide as a guide.

Whole Person Care is a cross-sectoral, interdepartmental, multidisciplinary strategy. It addresses the social determinants of health, focuses on high utilizers of the healthcare system, increases data sharing, increases care coordination across systems, increases initiation of alcohol and/or other drug treatment, and decreases emergency room visits and hospitalizations. Whole Person Care meets the needs of high-risk, high-cost Medi-Cal beneficiaries and reduces homelessness.

Although a rotating emergency shelter team had a 10-year run of success in assisting people experiencing homelessness during the winter months, resources have shifted to getting the most vulnerable people into steady shelter through Housing First. Fifty-five percent of the people who had benefited from the rotating shelter program last year – that’s 38 individuals – have been placed in regular housing because of increased collaboration between agencies. Locating homes for those without a home through personal case management costs about half the resources than it does to support a rotating night-to-night shelter operation. In fact, about $40,000 annually is saved by finding a home for a person who is homeless.

The County is working with Homeward Bound of Marin to establish emergency shelter surge capacity to supplement the 160 year-round shelter beds during severe weather events. The partners are preparing to feed and shelter up to 80 individuals at the Health and Wellness Campus in San Rafael during a severe weather event. As in past years, alternative arrangements will be made on-demand for unsheltered families.

The Board of Supervisors devoted the workshop to the topic as part of its commitment to engage residents in solution-oriented approaches to the most complicated and concerning issues facing communities in Marin. The session was be led by County staff and included input from other stakeholders and community partners, several of whom participated in a panel to answer questions from the Supervisors and public.

The presentation included an assessment of the current landscape of Marin’s homelessness, services being provided, and why Housing First was the chosen approach. Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services, introduced the issue and provide a summary with policy analysts Ashley Hart McIntyre and Carrie Sager. Representatives from Homeward Bound of Marin, the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Marin, the City of San Rafael, and the Ritter Center participated as well.

Archived video of the workshop is on the County website, and replays will be broadcast occasionally on Comcast Channel 27 for Comcast and AT&T subscribers.


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