For unhoused and precariously housed people in Marin County, Community Action Marin’s Community Alternative Response and Engagement (CARE) Team is often their first point of contact for help. For about 90 individuals living in motorhomes and trailers stretching about a mile on Binford Road alongside Highway 101, CARE Team staff and other supports have been a lifeline in hard times.
ABC News recently recognized the Bay Area’s growing housing crisis, focusing on the Binford Road Encampment and the increasing challenges people face.
Today, roughly 130 vehicles line Binford Road. For the people there, it was the pandemic that was the tipping point. The lineup of RVs at this encampment has continued to be more visible. According to Erin Hawkins, Vice President of Programs:
“Homeless client outreach, resource navigation, and housing case management are all important steps to helping people obtain housing. The work of the CARE Team and others doing outreach is incredibly inspiring and incredibly difficult. It’s made even more complicated by the complete lack of affordable housing options in Marin County.”
Community Action Marin offers vital support and assistance to unhoused people throughout Marin County. The organization, the county’s largest non-profit anti-poverty and social services provider, is often the first point of contact for people experiencing homelessness. Staff on the CARE Team conduct wellness visits, take people food, socks or sleeping bags, and make transportation to appointments, DMV, a homeless shelter, or a hospital readily available.
Lynette Stewart got the help she needed. “Community Action Marin changed the trajectory of my life after I lost my job and became homeless,” recalls Stewart. “We began working together to help me access COVID-19 funds to help fix my car, get referrals for housing services, CalWORKs, and other needs. I currently live in Gilead House in Novato, which provides me and my son with a stable living environment.”
In 2023, Community Action Marin presented Ms. Stewart with its Community Courage Award.
Encounters with warm and professional staff help to build trust over time, and the work of an outreach team member can take place over many months or even years before housing becomes an option. Once trust has been built, people are connected to mental health services, housing programs, and other support throughout the county to help them as they may need on a path to well-being.
Homeless Outreach is just one part of Community Action Marin’s Housing Justice services. The agency’s seasoned Housing Information Specialists also help people find information about shared housing options, Section 8 housing vouchers, and subsidized housing. The Specialists provide help with housing resumes and letters of reference, and they offer external referrals to a network of trusted landlords and housing programs.
Importantly, the CARE Team centers the dignity of clients, while also recognizing that the collective finish line—safe affordable housing—can seem to only get further away. Notes Hawkins, “It’s deeply frustrating for both clients and staff. We are buoyed, however, by our advocacy work and our part in county-wide and regional efforts to bring more housing to our communities.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness and needs help, the CARE Team can be contacted by calling 415.847.6798.