You are currently viewing More than elsewhere, Novato is trying to help homeless residents – Marin Independent Journal

More than elsewhere, Novato is trying to help homeless residents – Marin Independent Journal


The Novato City Council has long been supportive of finding ways to provide housing and help for Marin’s homeless population.

Even its recent opposition to the controversial proposal to turn the 70-room Inn Marin and Suites motel into housing for the homeless shouldn’t detract from its longstanding supportive partnership with Homeward Bound of Marin, Marin’s largest charity providing housing for those who would otherwise be sleeping on the street or camping in Marin’s open spaces.

To argue that more than 70 people are living on the streets because of Novato’s opposition to the Inn Marin proposal is simplistic and ignores a lot of the work the city has done to improve services and resources for the homeless and low-income Marin residents.

It certainly ignores that fact that converting the motel into a housing complex for the homeless had long-term financial ramifications for the city, costing it millions in annual lodging and property tax revenue.

Homeward Bound doesn’t have the capacity to provide housing for all of Marin’s homeless and some of those living in illegal camps aren’t interested in following Homeward Bound’s rules or getting its help in getting people out of the spiral of homelessness.

For Novato, the issue has heated up as two homeless camps have taken hold near the county library and at Hamilton Field.

Outside of the city limits, there are still RVs and campers parked along Binford Road because their owners say they have nowhere else to go.

The Hamilton spot has been cleared, but overall enforcement efforts to dismantle these homeless camps have been hindered by a federal court ruling that invalidated local anti-camping laws when there is no other viable housing available. The court held that homeless camps are conduct that is “an unavoidable consequence of being homeless.”

That ruling — and the Supreme Court’s refusal to reconsider it — does little to answer serious questions regarding public safety and sanitation.

Councilwoman Amy Peele is suggesting the city host a public workshop where it could hear reports from city and county agencies, receive a presentation about Homeward Bound’s programs and hear from the community.

It should be a fair and full assessment of both the services that are being provided and the local need.

At this workshop, the community can hear about and discuss ways it can address the camps and Binford.

This is not just a Novato issue; it is a countywide problem. This societal dilemma, which is more invisible in other communities, has become even more complicated due to the pandemic and public health efforts to stop its spread.

It is unfair to criticize the city. Novato is doing more to address homelessness than other Marin municipalities. In fact, Novato is likely providing housing and help to people who were living in other parts of the county.

Homeless advocates say they are pressing for social equity.

They have a strong point. But it’s wrong to characterize Novato City Hall as being unwilling to do a lot in helping homeless people.

Can the city do more?

That likely can be asked of every municipality.

But holding a workshop where officials, residents and homeless advocates can assess what services and programs are available — with the city’s help — and the gaps that exist in Novato is an important first step toward coming up with possible community-based solutions.


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