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Marin homelessness report shows ethnic disparity

Marin homelessness report shows ethnic disparity

African-Americans account for 17 percent of Marin’s homeless population despite the fact that only 2 percent of the county’s population is black, according to a new county report. The report presents the findings of the biennial point-in-time count of Marin County’s homeless population that was conducted from 5 to 9 a.m. on Jan. 28. The federal government requires all jurisdictions receiving funding to aid the homeless to conduct a count every two years. Ken Shapiro, director of Marin County’s Whole Person Care program, said the disproportionate number of blacks in the homeless population “is due to a long and complex local and nationwide history of racism and housing discrimination.” Nineteen percent of the homeless counted identified as Hispanic/Latino, compared to 16% of the general Marin County population who identified as Hispanic/Latino. Carrie Ellen Sager, Marin County’s homelessness program coordinator, said the county is attempting to address the inordinate number of people of color who are homeless by re-evaluating its procedures for targeting chronically homeless people for housing assistance. The final report, which was issued on Wednesday, confirmed preliminary figures released in May. The count found 1,034 people experiencing homelessness in Marin, compared with 1,117 in January 2017, a decrease of more than 7%. Those experiencing chronic homelessness dropped 28%, to 257 people. Federal officials define a “chronically homeless person” as someone who has experienced homelessness for a year or longer, or who has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years. As they did in May, county officials emphasized that the data confirm their switch to a housing-first strategy for addressing homelessness in Marin is paying off. “A key component to our success has been our ability to create new housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness by pairing Marin Housing Authority’s Housing Choice Vouchers with Ritter Center’s Whole Person Care case management team, who work closely with clients and landlords to resolve problems to keep clients successfully housed,” said Kimberly Carroll, deputy director of the Marin Housing Authority. Since October 2017, Marin County and its partners have permanently housed 162 chronically homeless residents. The federal government designates people as homeless if they are living in a public or private shelter or spending most of their time sleeping in a place not designed for sleep, such as a car, park, abandoned building, campground or city street. In 2019, 326 of the homeless counted were sheltered, compared with 409 in 2017, a decrease of 20 percent. Based on information gathered from the homeless as part of the count, there was an 11% drop in the use of government assistance by Marin’s homeless in 2019. There was also a 22% drop in their accessing of free meals, a 5% drop in their use of day services and health services, and a 21% drop in their accessing of emergency shelter. Beyond indicating whether the number of homeless in Marin are increasing or decreasing, the final report provides detailed information on who the homeless in Marin are. The count found eight unaccompanied children and 99 unaccompanied people ages 18 to 24, accounting for 10% of the total homeless population in Marin. Half of those respondents identified as LGBTQ+, compared with 15% of adults over 25 experiencing homelessness who identified likewise. Twenty-nine percent of the homeless youths identified as Hispanic or Latino in 2019, compared to 10% in 2017. Sixty-seven percent of the homeless counted were male and 33 percent female. The majority of the population experiencing chronic homelessness, 59%, also identified as men in 2019. Women constituted 41% of Marin’s chronic homeless population in 2019, compared with 29% in 2017. The number of homeless veterans in Marin County in 2019 increased slightly to 99, from 94 in 2017, constituting 10% of the population experiencing homelessness. Overall, veteran homelessness in Marin has increased 50% since 2015. Fifty-four families with 147 family members were counted as homeless in Marin County in 2019. Fifty of these families were sheltered, and the rest were counted on the street. In 2019 there were 320 older adults experiencing homelessness, or 31% of the population experiencing homelessness. Two-thirds were unsheltered. In 2019, 73% of people experiencing homelessness in Marin County reported living in Marin at the time of their most recent housing loss. “Those statistics are consistent with similar reports nationwide,” Sager said. “By and large, people who become homeless stay where they have connections. This is a local problem, and these are our neighbors.”

Marin homelessness report shows ethnic disparity

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