Group tracks homeless in Marin County for census

Friday, January 30, 2015
Group tracks homeless in Marin County for census
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A census that tracks the homeless population in Marin County finished Thursday, an effort that will have long-lasting implications for a vulnerable and needy population.

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (KGO) -- A census that tracks the homeless population in Marin County finished Thursday, an effort that will have long-lasting implications for vulnerable and needy population.

Fifty teams of people were out before dawn counting the county's transient population.

The last homeless census in Marin County was done two years ago.

Marin County is one of the richest counties in America, but it still faces challenges like so many others.

"When they did the last count in 2013, there were 900 in the county and in San Rafael," said Andrew Henning of the San Rafael Street Team.

The count leads to funding and paying for solutions like San Rafael's Street Team. Through the organization, ,men and women work on city beautification projects in return for coupons, gift cards to rebuild self-respect.

"I used to see these guys on the road and say those guys aren't for me," Terry Cates said. "But you do what you have to do."

Terry Cates, a former construction worker, lost his job and his home. He and his wife Victoria served as tour guides in Thursday's count.

They know all the spots. Their temporary residence is a van in a city parking lot.

"We lived here all our lives? Where else can we go?" he said.

Some critics describe Marin, and especially San Rafael, as being too friendly to the homeless.

This city spent almost a $1 million on the homeless last year. It's a tradition of charity that began with father Junipero Serra and the San Rafael Mission. It continues with a relative abundance of social services.

"(There's) good resources here," Nikola Duane, a homeless resident said. "Soup kitchen, clothes, bus tickets, all that."

The count is important both as a social indicator, and a lever on financial resources. In this case,the homeless, like Terry and Victoria Cates, put in the leg work to help themselves.

"I want things to get better, Cates said. "We're trying."