• Wed. Nov 30th, 2022

Another step in the painstaking process of closing the San Rafael homeless camp – Marin Independent Journal

ByDebra J. Aguilar

Aug 28, 2022

The road to eliminating homeless encampments in Marin has been full of twists and turns. Most are the result of costly legal wrangling and court decisions.

A 2018 Federal Court decision placed limits on the legal right of municipalities to ban camping on public lands. The decision encouraged local homeless people to set up camps on public land, from Novato’s Lee Gerner Park near downtown to the Caltrans right-of-way under the 101 Freeway overpass in downtown San Rafael. .

The court ruled, in a case against Boise’s enforcement of its anti-camping law, that such laws could not be enforced if municipalities did not have enough shelter beds for their homeless population.

For months, the legal roots of these camps were secured by the threat of COVID-19 and the follow-up to a court finding the camps were a healthier place for the homeless than being forced to pack their bags. every morning and wander the streets.

This has left local municipalities with the challenge of finding viable alternatives to camps, while dealing with public complaints as well as campers’ seemingly endless complaints about living conditions and services.

San Rafael recently found itself facing another twist, which temporarily halted its camp cleanup plan. As he slowly managed to find accommodation for local campers, the number of people living in tents under the highway was drastically reduced. There are only about ten campers left.

The campers sent the city back to court just before the scheduled August 16 release date. They maintained that they had not been informed sufficiently in advance that the camp would be moved, nor had they been offered suitable shelter. After initially stalling the city’s plan, Richard Seeborg, a federal court judge, agreed to lift the ban on Friday.

Seeborg urged “the parties to work together to identify and transfer claimants to more permanent shelter after clearance.”

This is a reasonable conclusion and one that the city should be able to satisfy. It’s a complicated difference between campers who say, “We have nowhere to go” and the list of cities offers alternatives where campers don’t want to stay. Sometimes they don’t like rules. Some do not feel safe or secure.

Caltrans, owner of the San Rafael property, said the remaining campers were all being offered beds in a shelter or a bed in a treatment center.

Sausalito took a different approach. After months of legal twists and turns, the city scrapped the Marinship homeless camp as part of a legal agreement with the campers to provide each of them with $18,000 in assistance to subsidize permanent housing.

The appropriation of this aid will be monitored by a trust to ensure that the money is spent on housing.

The city’s settlement was likely cheaper than continuing its legal battles, many of which were sparked by camper complaints, and the cost of security and services at the Marinship Park camp.

Homelessness is not a new dilemma for San Rafael. But having a campground rooting downtown is. The number of campers exceeded the number of apartments the city could find, in line with Marin’s Housing First strategy. The expansion of the Mill Street shelter and the conversion of an office on Kerner Boulevard into apartments for the homeless were underway, but not yet ready.

The city has also been working on a plan to build a village of 20 small houses as temporary housing for the homeless.

Meanwhile, the county is still dealing with a long line of long-parked campers and caravans along Binford Road north of Novato.

It’s been a long and costly road for the county, San Rafael, Sausalito and Novato — and their taxpayers. For the homeless, living in tents lacks the comfort and security of a roof and four walls. Progress has been made in finding solutions, but it has not been quick or easy for either side.