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Marin County’s Homeless Make Do

with 10 comments

Marin County | California

There are around 400 homeless people sleeping on the ground in Marin County.  Fifty-five emergency shelter beds are available. The people who lose out sleep where they can. Sometimes covered, sometimes not.

Homeless sleeper on the ground.When Kelso woke up I told him I had taken his picture. He said, “Use it. This is my life.”

In 2011,  Marin County officials rejected a grand jury’s recommendation for a permanent emergency shelter program. The reasoning was that the money would be better spent on permanent housing. Here it is 2013, and while some progress has been made on permanent housing, such as Homeward Bound’s Oma Village, people are still sleeping and dying on the county’s streets and hideaways.

Homeless sleeper

Marin County is well known for its natural beauty, liberal politics, and affluence. I just checked with Wikipedia, and there are 3,141 counties in the United States. Ours is 46th from the top when ranked on household income. There is real money here. It seems to me we can afford to do much more to help our homeless citizens.

What do you think? What would you do to reduce homelessness?


Written by Ron Greene

July 30, 2013 at 9:04 am

10 Responses

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  1. This puzzle me. I dont know what an emergency shelter is. Can emergency shelters for 400 be created? And what is permanent housing? Can that be created for 400? How do you control the potential influx of homeless from other places who learn of Marin’s homeless provisions–should they be created.

    I can only think of the migrant camps in the Pennsylvania apple orchards. They were cinder block buildings, dormitory like rooms. There were showers for men and women. A central dining area with picnic tables and benches. They housed perhaps 50 people. Of course the difference is that most of the adults worked picking apples all day and could afford to pay for meals. After three months they went north following the apple harvest or south to pick oranges in Florida. The camp buildings were left vacant until the next year. This paragraph has little to do with the homeless in Marin County, I know.

    When I lived near the Russian River, near Jenner by the Sea there were still the abandoned CCC buildings that housed many men.

    Where there is a will there’s a way to create shelter.

    Jane Beecher

    July 30, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    • None of this is easy. There are successful models out there, ranging from supervised campgrounds, to FEMA trailers, to tent cities modeled after those used for international refugees. My idea would be to make sure whatever is done would be hygienic and safe, but very plain. So plain that few people would travel to Marin just for housing. If it turned out that too many people were coming to Marin just to get out of the rain and the cold at night, well, then, I guess you could require homeless people to prove that they had lived in Marin for six months or so.

      Aside from the goal of simply providing humane shelter, having more homeless people sleeping in one place makes it easier for service providers to help their clients find longer range solutions, like sobriety, and mental health care for those who need it. Can permanent housing eventually be found for 400 people? I don’t know, but we can certainly do better. On raining nights I’ve seen homeless people huddled together in downtown business doorways. I’m not going to take them home, but I do feel guilty about it.

      Ron Greene

      July 31, 2013 at 8:51 am

  2. I engaged in a social experiment and posted your blog on the Ritter Center’s facebook page this evening. It was taken down within the hour. The agency still seems more concerned with saving face and playing nice politically with the County, City and other “powers” in Marin. I was surprised by how swiftly the post was taken down.


    July 30, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    • I would like to see the leadership be more assertive in defense of the homeless, but to be fair, political considerations are an important part of the equation. Since we’re not operating in an atmosphere of total transparency, who knows what takes place behind closed doors. Leadership always has to be concerned about alienating the wrong people and having funding reduced. But I repeat, critics of homeless programs and homeless people need to be met with a stronger rebuttal.

      Ron Greene

      July 31, 2013 at 9:00 am

    • I have found this same issue…I have been attempting to advocate for homeless families because of my work with them throughout the past six years as a volunteer… Most people do not know that right now we have only NINE emergency shelter rooms for people with CHILDREN in the entire county. That means we have NOWHERE to house families when they fall on hard times quickly. Long term housing doesn’t happen overnight…As I have been advocating around this issue in the county, I have come to find that I am regarded by many of the agencies serving the poor community of Marin– as a big problem. No one wants to talk about it. And no one wants me to talk about it. I am looking for ways to make change happen. I cannot personally open a shelter. All I can do is keep talking…gathering information and informing. I have even found that one particular homeless organization quickly blocked me from attempting to get information about those families who are turned away from shelter (many are turned away each day, of course.)


      August 24, 2013 at 4:36 pm

      • Whoever you are, I hope you stick with the struggle. Thanks.

        Ron Greene

        August 24, 2013 at 4:43 pm

  3. Maybe I’m too skeptical, it might have been facebook that shuffled it around on Ritter’s timeline….


    July 30, 2013 at 10:53 pm

  4. I responded above and came up anonymous…If anyone would like to give me suggestions about ways of helping advocate for the increase of emergency shelter for children (and their families) in Marin County, and to get information about the issue, please email me at . I plan to start a blog. Here is my facebook page:

    Again, there are only 9 places for families to stay in emergency who become homeless in our county.


    August 24, 2013 at 4:46 pm

  5. […] Marin County’s Homeless Made Do ( […]

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