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Delivering services where needed

Unhoused in West Marin
Posted on Category General, Stories

“I was homeless for five years in Marin. Community Action Marin saved my life. I got my case manager. She put me up in hotels, she got me clothing vouchers and toiletries. She kept telling me, I’m not letting you go back to the streets. She kept her word too. It’s pure dedication, not giving up, really in your corner, really there for you.” 

–  Kelli McMains, 2022 recipient of Community Action Marin’s Inaugural Community Courage Award recognizing individuals who have received help and exemplify the agency’s values of relationship, unity, service, and inclusivity. 

Watch Kelli's Video

West Marin’s unhoused population faces significant challenges, notably the scarcity of affordable housing, the absence of emergency shelters, the lack of shower facilities, and the distance people must travel to receive services that aren’t available in West Marin itself.  

Community Action Marin helps to meet people where they are through street outreach services. The agency’s Community Alternative Response (CARE) Team members take pride in being able to work with people who are unhoused—many of whom they’ve earned trust with over years. Individuals they work with may be living in campgrounds, outdoors, in vehicles, or in places not considered fit for human habitation. It’s difficult work, but the CARE Team is strong and compassionate when it comes to deepening bonds that heal and transform lives.  

Did you know that many West Marin residents aged 55 and older are concerned about becoming homeless? Many are long-time renters who are worried that if they lose their existing rental situation, they would not be able to afford market rate housing. Some have aged into poverty and are open to getting assistance if barriers can be removed.  

CARE Team staff help people year-round to eliminate barriers and access services throughout the county. In 2021 alone, the CARE Team and colleagues on the Safety Net Services team had over 200 interactions with unhoused individuals in West Marin to help get them off the streets and stabilize their housing first. The work might include information to help people navigate the system of housing providers, vouchers that are available for homeless people needing a duplicate ID or social security card, food, a deposit, emergency help, or clothing.  

There are also needs that are immediate and the CARE Team is there. These might include shoes, adult diapers, medical equipment, gas for a vehicle, or specialty clothing sizes. For those camping out, staff have provided sleeping bags, clean socks, warm clothes, personal hygiene supplies, and drinking water.   

Depending on resources, the CARE Team might also help get people minor car repairs done in order to keep vehicles in running condition. Fatai Tokolahi, CARE Team Manager, shares that in one instance, the team provided an inexpensive laptop repair for a gentleman who was relying on his laptop for communication with medical and other providers.  “He had the potential to help himself, and we helped make it easier for him to get what he needed. That supportive relationship with someone brings everyone joy.”  

Short-term Motel Stays Provide Vital Support 

In times of great need, the CARE Team also provides West Marin homeless residents with short-term motel stays. Someone might be experiencing a health crisis or awaiting admission to a shelter or residential treatment.  While the long-term goal is to engage people in gaining admittance to existing shelter or treatment programs, this is often more easily achieved when the team can meet an immediate need. 

CARE Team member Diana Boykin relates the time an elderly gentleman had several surgical procedures that needed to be scheduled. His primary health care provider, the Veteran’s Administration, was in San Francisco. In order to facilitate getting the client to early morning medical appointments, the CARE Team picked him up and brought him to a San Rafael motel so that they could pick him up the next morning for transport to San Francisco. “It was a win because he got the care he needed, was rested and felt good the next day. I was happy we were there for him,” Diana shares.  

Another senior client was assisted with two short-term motel stays. The first was to provide shelter and continuity of care while getting her admitted to a detox center, followed by a residential recovery program. After leaving that program, the client was more amenable to committing to the process of obtaining permanent affordable housing. The second motel stay ensured that she was present and available for the required appointments necessary to move into her new unit. She has continued to receive a continuum of services to provide the stability and support necessary to maintain her housing.   

Partner with the CARE Team Today! 

Learn more about Community Action Marin’s Homeless Outreach Programs and how you can get involved to support housing first pathways across Marin County.