This week the county released preliminary numbers from the 2022 Point-in-Time (PIT) Homeless count that Community Action Marin participated in this past February. Although the numbers showed that Marin County was able to avoid the sharp increase in homelessness which had been expected due to rising costs amid the pandemic, the data did show an increase in homelessness of 8.4%, representing 1121 individuals in 2022.
The PIT, required every two years by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) shows the extent of homelessness and allows HUD to track progress towards ending it. Officials also rely on the count as a baseline to track increases and decreases in the region’s number of unhoused people and obtain funding based on those numbers.
On a county level, the count helps communities plan services and programs to address local needs. Explains Fatai Tokolahi, one of Community Action Marin’s Mobile Outreach Specialists “The count gives us numbers so we can figure out supplies, services, staff, and team needs. For example, there are more homeless In Novato than West Marin so we can focus on those areas where there are more people.”
The count itself, Fatai elaborated, is easy for the agency, “We work with the homeless, we can identify them, we know their situation. Some of the people out there may only be halfway homeless. They could be staying with friends temporarily. Or they might already have a house, but we are working with them in some other way. The count tells us who is really on the street. It gives us a good picture of where to focus and take our resources. It gives us a picture of who needs services.”
To do the count, the CARE teams start at 5am, going out in four vans to cover Tomales to Stinson and tracts in Novato and Marin City. “Some homeless are in vehicles, tents on the side of the road or in bushes. We start early because if we start later, say 9am, people may have gone to work, or moved their car.” said Fatai. “The numbers this year were low. We know there are more. The county does too.”
S.F. Chronicle reporter Kevin Fagan, who has specialized in homelessness for decades, and covered the first PIT count of its kind in the late 1980’s in Oakland also shared “The trouble is that when it comes to counting unsheltered people it’s an incomplete snapshot, depending mostly on visually spotting people on the sidewalks, in tents, in cars and the like.”
Community Action Marin is not alone in its efforts to participate in the PIT count or to help the homeless, with other organizations including St. Vincent de Paul Society, Ritter Center, Marin Housing Authority, Downtown Streets Team, Episcopal Community Services, Catholic Charities, Adopt A Family, Buckelew, Side by Side, the Center for Domestic Peace, and Homeward Bound also involved. Recently, along with the Downtown Streets Team, Community Action Marin received a new outreach grant, helping to connect the Marin homeless to more than three million dollars in new Rapid Rehousing funds.
As far as the other data from the count, there was a positive in the results: a significant reduction in Veteran homelessness, dropping from 99 individuals to 65 in the current count. This result shows the efficacy of deeper, long-term investments targeted to specific populations.
Community Action Marin is often the first point of contact for people experiencing homelessness. Through our Community Alternative Response Engagement (CARE) teams, we find people in need of service and help them in simple ways like wellness checks, bringing people food, socks or sleeping bags, or transportation to a detox center, homeless shelter or hospital, until they are receptive to accessing services. Encounters can take place over many months or even years. Once trust has been built, we connect people in need with mental health services, housing programs and other supports on the path to becoming housed and stabilized.
Community Action Marin is a part of the County of Marin’s housing first effort to end homelessness in our community and a Steering Committee member of Opening Doors Marin.