Marin County and Homeward Bound Partner on Shelter Needs

Support for people experiencing homelessness to increase existing capacity

San Rafael, CAThe Marin County Department of Health and Human Services(HHS) and the Novato-based nonprofit Homeward Bound of Marin have established emergency shelter surge capacity to supplement 190 year-round shelter beds during severe weather events. 

In the case of a severe weather event, the new partnership will provide food and shelter for up to 80 individuals at the Marin County Health and Wellness Campus at 3240 Kerner Boulevard in San Rafael. Homeward Bound employees will staff the center when utilized.

Based on similar protocols from other California communities and past practice in Marin, a severe weather event is defined as:

  • when temperatures drop below an average nighttime low of 38 degrees;
  • when conditions are projected for a minimum of three days; and
  • other conditions exist, including significant rainfall (e.g., an inch of driving rain), severe wind chills or extreme temperature fluctuations. (**)

Previously, the County government worked with houses of worship and nonprofits to provide a program called the Rotating Emergency Shelter Team (REST) between November and April. Since last winter, the County and its partners have created a coordinated entry system to streamline entry into permanent housing and have adopted a Housing First initiative to prioritize permanent placement of people experiencing chronic homelessness. The County’s new Whole Person Care Division has partnered with the Marin Housing Authority to bring 73 new permanent supportive housing vouchers online.

HHS Whole Person Care Director Ken Shapiro said 70 individuals experiencing chronic homelessness in Marin have been connected to permanent housing in the 12 months since the launch of coordinated entry in Marin. Thirty-eight individuals of the initial 70 are former participants in REST.

“All the partners in the Marin County homeless system of care are focused on ending chronic homelessness,” Shapiro said. “The most humane response to the crisis of homelessness is housing.” 

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

“Partners in the county are working more closely together than ever before, assuring that an appropriate and timely response is well coordinated and effective,” Homeward Bound Executive Director Mary Kay Sweeney said.

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

(**) Melanie’s Note:  I do not purport to be an expert on this – and am appreciative for the work being done in our County for homelessness –  however the protocols defining severe weather event – to my way of thinking seems to set a very high bar.   I would think being out on the street or in a car in any rain or any weather under 55 degrees, for any length of time, should trigger the same response. What am I missing Marin?

BY MELANIE NATHAN, mostly a mom!
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