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Momentum Builds for Marin Homeless Shelter

A recent cold snap called attention to the need for a winter shelter for Marin County’s homeless population, estimated at over 900.

Patch file photo
Patch file photo

During a record-setting cold snap earlier this month in which overnight temperatures plunged into the 20s on eight consecutive days, a San Rafael homeless man who goes by “Haysz” developed frostbite on his hand.

“It’s been freezing cold,” he said. “It’s been pretty hard.”

Haysz is among an estimated 900 or so homeless people who live in Marin County, about half of whom live in San Rafael, Mayor Gary Phillips said.

A faith-based program in Marin provides 215 shelter beds to the homeless, but the county’s Rotating Emergency Shelter Team (REST) was by all accounts inadequate in meeting the demands of  hundreds of homeless people during the unusually long cold snap blamed on at least five Bay Area deaths.

The recent cold snap calls attention to the need for a permanent shelter that would address a problem that well intentioned REST program participants can’t shoulder alone.

Momentum appears to be building to create such a facility.

Phillips and Marin County Department of Health and Human Services Director Larry Meredith earlier this month agreed to work together to push for a year-round shelter, the Marin Independent Journal reports.

Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams has also pledged to support a year-round facility, the report said.

An IJ editorial makes a compelling case for a permanent winter shelter, too.

Where such a facility would be built, however, remains an open question. Phillips said he wants to see to a shelter outside San Rafael’s city limits, mostly to “send a message that’s it’s a county problem,” he told Patch.

Haysz insists the REST program doesn’t offer enough beds, a problem that became especially pronounced during this month’s cold snap.

“I think It would help a lot,” he said of the suggestion that a permanent shelter be built.

Homeless advocates support the idea of a homeless shelter, but not at the expense of permanent housing.

“Shelters tend to be temporary in nature, but since Marin County doesn’t have an emergency shelter that is low-barrier we think it’s an important piece of the puzzle, just as long as it’s not in lieu  of permanent housing,” Ritter Center Deputy Director Benjamin Leroi said.

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Jack December 17, 2013 at 09:21 AM
Lynn Tompkins December 17, 2013 at 10:10 AM
Many communities have emergency shelters in school Gyms for natural disasters - floods fires etc. Do we? Extreme weather certainly would qualify as a disaster for the homeless in the Bay area since it is unusual here.
Paul and Marilena Silbey December 17, 2013 at 11:47 AM
How do concerned citizens get involved in supporting, planning and creation of such a program/facility? If any community could solve this problem, it is Marin...one of the wealthiest counties in California!


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