The Challenge

For the vast majority of people who experience homelessness, it is a one-time, brief experience lasting just a few short months. For a small group, however, it can become a multi-year debilitating condition that puts their lives at great risk while also significantly increasing societal costs. This small, high needs group is generally called “the chronically homeless”.

Highest cost

Chronically homeless individuals in Marin cost an average of $65,000 a year in public services such as 911, first responder call, hospitals, and the court system.

Most complaints

This small percentage of the overall homeless population generates the most complaints from the community.

Most vulnerable

Studies have shown that chronically homeless individuals die 20 years earlier than their housed peers from preventable and treatable chronic illness

The Solution

In 2017, a collaboration of nonprofit providers in Marin, with support from the County of Marin, Marin Community Foundation, and the City of San Rafael, launched a Housing First approach to homelessness in Marin. Housing First is an evidence-based practice that treats housing as the solution for homelessness and focuses on removing the system and personal barriers that prevent a person from being housed. Studies have shown that Housing First is significantly more effective in the short and long term over other approaches. Over the last two years, we have housed over 170 chronically homeless individuals with a 93% retention rate.

Marin County’s service coalition and the County have joined over 80 other communities around the country in prioritizing an end to chronic and veteran homelessness. Utilizing practices that are working in communities like Marin’s, we have created a new coordinated approach (“coordinated entry”) that identifies the most vulnerable persons in the homeless community. Working together, we help remove the system barriers and work to get those individuals directly into permanent supportive housing, where they are supported with intensive wraparound services. The results so far speak for themselves.

Our Impact

Opening Doors Marin Impact statistics

We need more housing

This strategy works if we have enough housing units. That’s where Opening Doors Marin comes in. We are supporting a variety of projects and initiatives designed to increase our local housing capacity and our ability to house the most vulnerable. Those efforts include:

  • Landlord recruitment – partner with us to rent to someone with a housing subsidy
  • Master-leasing – rent an entire house or apartment unit for a nonprofit, which then sublets to the folks we’re serving
  • Conversion and Preservation – help expand the number of affordable units in existing properties and help us preserve affordable units when properties turn over in the market
  • New construction – support transit-oriented development (TOD) for affordable units
  • Raising funds to purchase and preserve affordable units