County of Marin - News Releases - Vulnerable Populations

For Immediate Release
April 28, 2020

County Goal: Getting Help to the Most Vulnerable

Health and Human Services responds to tremendous requests for assistance

San Rafael, CA – Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the County of Marin has prioritized proactive measures that prevents Marin’s most vulnerable residents from becoming even more exposed to hardship, whether it be medical, social, or financial.

This important topic will be discussed in an online Community Conversation at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 29. It will feature Benita McLarin, Director of the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as Dr. Matt Willis, County Public Health Officer, and Dr. Lisa Santora, Deputy Public Health Officer. Viewers can watch at

Evidence clearly shows an increase in requests from residents for assistance during the pandemic. Unemployment insurance claims in Marin have skyrocketed from 614 in February 2020 to 8,868 in March. There has been a five-fold increase in applications for public assistance benefits with HHS’ Division of Social Services reporting over 300 application requests per week.

In her presentation to the Board of Supervisors on April 21, McLarin outlined the many concerns facing Marin’s more vulnerable communities and highlighted County responses.

“Our mission is to serve all residents of Marin,” she said, “but as the virus’ impact becomes more apparent and longer term, the people who have experienced inequities are even more impacted because of the loss of income and continued exposure to the virus.”

McLarin said HHS’ divisions of Public Health, Social Services, Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, and Homelessness Support have all responded to the unprecedented appeal for help. She noted the historic inequities in the delivery of services to people in need, and the urgency of adjusting policies and creating new ways to dismantle any service barriers to the most vulnerable in the community. She emphasized the collaboration with many community partners, including cities and towns as well as local nonprofits.

San Rafael Mayor Gary Phillips said his city has partnered more closely than ever with the County to address homelessness. “That partnership is paying off, as evidenced by how quickly we’ve been able to support our homeless community with food, basic hygiene, emergency financial assistance, and new shelter options,” he said.

Marin HHS is responding on the frontlines in a variety of ways.

  • High-risk individuals who are older with underlying medical conditions and are experiencing homelessness have been provided shelter in hotels, motels, and trailers while receiving assistance from County Disaster Service Workers (DSWs). Hygiene stations have been installed for homeless individuals in San Rafael, Novato, and in West Marin.
  • In collaboration with Marin Community Foundation (MCF), the County has put together a grocery delivery program for seniors who live alone and are unable to safely access food. HHS designated five community food liaisons to assess and address specific concerns of local jurisdictions.
  • The Social Services Division continues to complete in-person investigations into reports of suspected abuse and neglect pertaining to children and older adults, offering resources to support families and isolated elders.
  • Social workers are contacting recipients of in-home supportive services over age 65 and those with underlying health conditions to ensure they are receiving needed services and are connected with backup caregivers.
  • HHS is assuring members of immigrant communities that relief resources including emergency food allotments and rental assistance can be distributed regardless of a recipient’s legal immigration status.
  • With the help of public information staff in the Emergency Operations Center, the Public Health staff is promoting public education about COVID-19 and providing up-to-date guidelines designed to prevent the virus’ spread. HHS has enhanced communication between its staff from Public Health and the Ombudsman Office with professionals from residential care facilities, community care licensing authorities, and local hospitals.

The County and MCF have doubled their initial commitments to a safety-net fund in response to the coronavirus emergency. They recently boosted the current fund to $2 million and renewed their focus on rental assistance to prevent a new influx of homelessness. Through the COVID-19 Fund of MCF, community contributions can be earmarked for emergency rental assistance, and will also be leveraged for food distribution and specialized services for older adults and people with disabilities. More than $1 million has been distributed through the fund to the local nonprofits providing urgent services during the emergency.


Benita McLarin
Health and Human Services

20 N. San Pedro Road
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-3696
Email: Benita McLarin
Marin HHS website