Fall/Winter 2023

As we mark our 50th year, we recognize the transformative power of housing. Each narrative reflects courage, persistence, and the humbling realization of what’s missing for those without homes.

A man stands in front of a construction site with his hands in his pockets

As we mark our 50th year, we recognize the transformative power of housing, dispelling doubts about its impact on personal change and homelessness. Each narrative reflects courage, persistence, and the humbling realization of what’s missing for those without homes.

Dear Friends to the End of Homelessness…

As we cross the threshold to our 50th year, we confront the need to open more doors to the power of housing. Any doubts about the power of having a place to call home – as the key to transformation as well as ending homelessness – evaporate when reading the stories in these pages.

The courage, persistence and stamina that each person manifests, in their own unique way, brings us to our knees in gratitude as they share their achievements. We who have been housed feel humbled by the recognition of what’s been missing for the people we serve.

While homelessness consistently makes news as our society’s most significant and troubling issue (which it is!), we know that it is solvable.  Not all at once, but one individual or family at a time.  That’s our superpower—working diligently hand-in-hand with each of our participants, creating a pathway home.

There’s another potent force at work in the stories told here and the new energy felt by all the people who say, “Thank you for saving my life!”  The lifeline extended by our programs and staff can be unspooled and sustained thanks to our community of compassion. YOU not only believe the end of homelessness is possible; you also contribute in so many ways to bring this dream to reality.

Last year, we celebrated with you at the grand openings of La Casa Buena and Jonathan’s Place. These programs allowed 50 people to end homelessness in their lives and stand as a tribute to our shared dedication for a community with housing for all.

Now we have another amazing opportunity to create even more housing that will end veteran homelessness in Marin County—a goal shared by all county partners who work daily toward this overdue and necessary milestone. Our building with 24 small apartments will open next year.

In addition, another 26 units for people transitioning back to the workforce makes a total of 50 being added to our main Hamilton campus. These 50 homes will provide space for more stories and empowerment as we lean into our 50th year.

Let’s continue on this journey together—our collective homecoming!

In abundant gratitude,
Mary Kay and Paul

construction of a 3-story building

Veterans Housing Moves Toward Spring 2024 Completion

Each week sees progress as trucks unload crates of windows, cranes lift beams to the roof and stairs rise to reveal the second floor of our new veterans housing. Every fresh delivery brings us closer to ending veteran homelessness in Marin County!

Since old warehouses came down in March, the sunny days have allowed crews to move steadily from grading to concrete to framing. We forecast the grand opening for these 24 apartments in Summer 2024.

“The construction is fueling our excitement to reach this goal and raising hope for veterans,” says Mary Kay Sweeney, our Co-Chief Executive Officer.

the new building will secure a long-held goal to bring home all veterans in Marin County who need housing. The county will be one of the first in California to reach that point.

The veterans building will be the first of a larger plan for the 2.7-acre site next to our headquarters in Novato. A later phase will create 26 units of housing for people transitioning out of homelessness, followed by a multipurpose space to expand our culinary training and employment programs.

While the dust may not settle completely, the new building will secure a long-held goal to bring home all veterans in Marin County who need housing. The county will be one of the first in California to reach that point.

“We look forward to welcoming 24 veterans to their new apartments and ending the tragedy of homelessness in their lives.  Everyone deserves a place to call home, particularly those who have trained, served, and suffered to defend us.  Homeward Bound will be proud to serve them in this supportive housing program.”

The new community expands specialized services for veterans offered at the adjacent New Beginnings Center. That program reserves 12 beds for veterans in a partnership with the Departments of Veterans Affairs and hosts an office for the VA social workers for Marin.

Tenants in the new program will pay affordable rents and have onsite staff to help them connect with medical care, job training or education options, transportation assistance and other resources.

We’ve made it this far thanks to several key investments: a $4 million California state budget allocation; a $3 million grant from the California Veterans Housing and Homelessness Prevention Program; a $2 million commitment from the County of Marin, and $2.2 million from Marin Community Foundation. The project also received a federal budget allocation of $750,000 and a $400,000 grant from The Home Depot Foundation.

With $16.8 million raised to date, we’re in the home stretch with a $1.2 million gap to fill before opening the doors for this project. Your gift will help make history and assure all our former service members a place to call home!

Chabrea holds her smiling baby.

ChaBrea Embraces Work, School and Parenting

With her first child on the way, ChaBrea M. knew she needed to divert from couch-surfing and find some stability.

“I slept in my car some days. I was working. It was a mess,” says ChaBrea, a Novato native who graduated from Tomales High School. She feared there would be no choice but giving up her baby for adoption.

Though she felt able to juggle work, school and moving around before the pregnancy, it became exhausting. That’s when she found Homeward Bound of Marin and moved into a room at the Family Center shelter about a month before her son arrived.

Recently ChaBrea and Xayn moved into our Next Key Apartments, within reach of her mother and sister for help with childcare. They look after Xayn while she works as an aide in the after-school program at Strawberry Recreation Center.

“I enjoy the job a lot. I’m so glad I could keep it. The community there has been wonderful,” she says, adding that one family there hosted a baby shower for her and some have hired her for extra babysitting.

Originally ChaBrea began junior college studies in natural resources, an interest that grew when she lived in West Marin. “I never would have seen myself digging in the mud, but there the outdoors really is a place where everyone spends time. It was a whole different experience,” she says.

She changed this year to Early Childhood Education, inspired by her interactions with kids in the after-school program. “I’m super happy now to be in school again,” ChaBrea says.

Finding a childcare program for Xayn is next on her list of projects. She credits Homeward Bound staff for keeping her on track to meet her goals. 

“I almost want to cry when I think of all the good things that have happened since I came here,” ChaBrea says. “Without Family Center, I honestly didn’t have a Plan B. I very much think I’d be in a depression. Probably I wouldn’t have Xayn. It’s hard to think about that.”

Her plan for the coming year includes building her savings and credit score, along with continuing her educational path.

“Everything is heading in a better direction.”

4 people stand behind a ribbon, cutting it with a pair of scissors

Next Key Program Celebrates 15 Years

Opening the Next Key Center in 2008 created a nexus of housing, training and employment that has become a potent generator for opportunities.

The center comprises the training kitchen, The Key Room event venue and 32 studio apartments. It also includes our Admin Office, which previously was located in rented space above a church.

“This complex has been transformational for the individuals who have re-imagined their lives in these programs,” says Mary Kay Sweeney, Co-Chief Executive Officer.

“Aside from our residents, it’s also had a profound impact for community groups who have reframed their views of homelessness and homeless people through their contact with the The Key Room and culinary programs,” she adds.

Three of the 32 apartments serve the Transition to Wellness program, a medical respite shelter for people leaving hospital care without stable housing. 

The rest operate as a transitional program that’s unique among our housing services, with 29 affordable apartments rented for two-year stays to people leaving our shelters. In 15 years, we served 347 people, including 54 small families like ChaBrea and Xayn.

“Not everyone needs permanent supportive housing,” says Paul Fordham, Co-Chief Executive Officer for Homeward Bound. “Some folks just need a launching pad for the short term.”

During their stay, people focus on developing skills, completing education goals, saving money and rebuilding credit. They also gain a rental history – another vital step toward finding independent housing.

“When I moved to Next Key, it changed me so much. I’ve never forgotten where my launchpad was,” says Denna Harvey, a resident while she began her culinary career in 2013.

She works as dietary services manager for a Napa nursing home and recently purchased a house in Suisun with her husband. “I hoped my situation would get better but never in a million years did I imagine this,” Denna says.

Lynes Downing, who now sits on our Board of Directors, started his pet-sitting business during his time as a Next Key resident. “It’s been running strong for over 10 years,” he says. “I was at the end of my rope but I took advantage of all that Homeward Bound offers for a new start.”

Gordon works toward health and new chapters

Life already had brought Gordon J. some distinct experiences before his company’s artwork went viral as the 2020 election brought Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to the White House.

The photo illustration created with artist Bria Goeller shows Vice President Harris walking in the shadow of Ruby Bridges, a civil rights trailblazer at 6 years old when she stepped into a formerly white-only school in Louisiana.

“People were calling me at 5 a.m., telling me the image was being shared on Twitter and everywhere,” recalls Gordon, who was in Sacramento to care for his father. “My dad had died three days earlier, so I was laughing and crying at the same time that day.”

His company, now called Good Trubble, sold out of T-shirts, sweatshirts and anything bearing the image. Everything seemed poised for success until health problems put life on hold, ultimately leading Gordon to Homeward Bound of Marin.

In six years of service in the National Guard, Gordon did a short stint of active duty that made him eligible for veterans benefits. He had never connected with the Department of Veterans Affairs. “I never wanted anything to do with the VA. I didn’t like how they treated my Dad,” Gordon says.

He reached out after he lost his housing while struggling to find treatment for Crohn’s Disease, living in his car while he sought specialist care.  The local Veterans Services Office referred him to New Beginnings Center.

“The McDonald’s bathroom works to clean up if that’s all you have,” Gordon says. “I needed this place to rest and focus on my health.”

At New Beginnings Center, he regained much of the weight loss that sent him into a wheelchair and rides his bike to build back his leg muscles. Our staff helped him connect with veterans benefits, including a housing voucher available through Veterans Affairs.  In August, he moved to a San Rafael apartment.

Raised in Palo Alto with activist parents, Gordon worked in sales and marketing for Xerox before spending years in the U.S. Virgin Islands as a boat captain and telephone lineman. Now he says he’s ready to go back to work at Good Trubble, which he launched after the 2016 election.

“There are a lot of messages to be shared about what’s happening here and in places like Iran, Sweden, Africa. I want to tell stories,” he says, adding that a new partner would manage the company’s day-to-day operations.

He’s grateful to feel stronger and energized for the next chapter.

“I was in a bad place. I hate to think about what could have happened without Homeward Bound, because I had given up.” 

To see his creative projects, visit goodtrubble.com and thatlittlegirlwasmenft.com

A veteran, Matt stares at the camera with trees behind

Matt F. Finds Path to Service After Struggle

Moving into his own apartment not only ended five years of couch-surfing and shelters for Matt F. His new home also let him find a path to serving other veterans working to solve challenges.

“After I was housed for awhile, I wanted to do something to be of service. I get a lot of satisfaction out of it,” says Matt, a volunteer with Marin County’s Veterans Service Office. He works full-time in the evenings at Bayside Marin Treatment Center.

His own journey through challenges came after six years with the U.S. Marines Reserves, including a year of active deployment in Iraq in 2003 as allied forces took action against Saddam Hussein. “After I came home from Iraq, I started drinking a lot. I really didn’t have a lot of direction in my life.”

He remembers his younger self as happy enough growing up in Long Beach with three younger sisters. “It’s got decent schools, a good family atmosphere,” Matt says. He attended junior college almost two years and joined the Reserves for new opportunities.

“I liked the training, the focus of being part of a unit,” he adds. After active duty, Matt found the loss of focus hard to navigate. “Being homeless, it was depressing,” Matt says.

At Homeward Bound of Marin, Matt received support from our onsite services for veterans to resolve a pending disability claim and secure a housing voucher. He’s lived in his San Rafael home ever since.

“Homeward Bound offers actual support to veterans. It’s not just a place to sleep. There’s a clear path to housing.”

Now his own experiences help him serve veterans needing to document their service history, connect with benefits or get help with basics like housing and transportation.

Matt attended last year’s groundbreaking event for our new veterans housing last year with other former service members. “I look forward to seeing it done. There’s a real need,” he adds.

A man sits in a wheelchair at the entrance to his apartment

Community Report - 2022-2023

We marked our 49th year by reaching a new milestone, opening 50 units of supportive housing to continue solving homelessness in Marin County. The completion of Jonathan’s Place in San Rafael and La Casa Buena in Corte Madera highlighted the 12 months ending June 30, 2023. They act as beacons for the future, along with thriving culinary training and social enterprises that help people build fresh opportunities. As we look to a sixth decade, we take heart in our partnership with the community and the achievements of those who journey through our programs.

More people sought our safety-net services in the 2022-23 year, with 905 people served in shelter and housing programs for an increase of 2% from the previous 12 months. Holding steady with last year, 26% were seniors aged 62 or older.

With new programs in operation, Homeward Bound served 699 single adults last year for an increase of 9%. Yet the critical gap between housing needs and supply continued to restrict their opportunities, with just 5% of those leaving our programs moving to market-rate housing.

That trend also showed in our family programs, which served a total of 122 parents and 133 children. Of those leaving our programs in the 12-month period, rent subsidies enabled 49% to find stable homes and 8% moved to market-rate units. Another 20% found housing with friends or family, an option that became more available as COVID-19 risk faded.

We closed the year with a total 447 people served in supportive housing, up from 410 as we moved toward full occupany of Jonathan’s Place and La Casa Buena. 

With this backdrop of need, the Groundbreaking Celebration for our new veterans housing fired our hopes. Veterans, elected officials and neighbors came to applaud this project to create 24 apartments for those who have honored our freedoms with their service.

Construction gathered speed in March, when dry weather allowed grading to begin. Feel free to reach out for an insider tour of these homes for heroes at 415-382-3363 x216 or email ckanzenberg@hbofm.org.

Though pandemic risks eased, our programs last year expanded work to help residents improve and maintain their health.  A $1.2 million state grant provided new tools for case managers to enhance care for participants.

With these funds, staff can coordinate more closely with medical providers to help people overcome health issues that have been barriers to stable housing. More than 220 people benefited from enhanced medical services in the past year.

Our teamwork made Homeward Bound a leader statewide in this initiative. Partnership Health, the organization that manages MediCal care, nominated Homeward Bound for the national Supporting the Safety Net Award to recognize these efforts.

Transition to Wellness, our medical respite shelter, also supported more people with health needs. In the 2022-23 year, the program offered space for 87 people to recuperate after hospital care, compared to 75 the year before.

The training team at Fresh Starts Culinary Academy worked hard to help people break through obstacles by providing 31 students with core skills in culinary arts. Graduates found steady demand for their knowledge: 80% secured employment within three months of completing their training.

A $750,000 grant from the state’s “Breaking Barriers Initiative” last year added two new positions on our team. Culinary Trainer Jasmine Howell boosts coaching for graduates working in six-month transitional positions in our kitchen, while Matt Shapiro joined us as Director of Training and Culinary Operations.

The culinary team kept pace with rising activity for The Key Room event venue and Fresh Starts Chef Events, our monthly series of celebrity chef dinners. These mission-driven businesses operate in tandem with production of 13,000 meals a month for shelter and housing programs.

After months of closure, we rejoiced to welcome guests for eight chef events last year. Kicking off with PBS-TV Chef Joanne Weir, our series shared sold-out evenings with more than 800 people! 

Our chef events occur in The Key Room, which also hosted 81 private events for clients ranging from BioMarin to Marin Master Gardeners to couples planning intimate wedding receptions.

A team of chefs add food to a tabletop filled with many plates

Production of Wagster Treats dog biscuits also grew with new vendors, including the Gifts for Good company focused on corporate gifting and Procure Impact, a network for large companies seeking products with social benefits.  

These employment social enterprises engaged 47 people, demonstrating the potential of mission-driven business to pave a runway for new careers. 

As we enter our 50th year, our excitement soars with the changing view at the veterans housing site. We look forward to inviting everyone to a grand opening party in 2024 and toasting the end of veteran homelessness in Marin County! (See more on page 3.)

Nearing this goal inspires us to hold tight to our vision that “everyone deserves a place to call home.” With your partnership, we believe homelessness is solvable and our community can turn that challenge into a brief experience that’s met with effective options. It’s our privilege to work on behalf of the community toward these goals, now and for decades to come.


Pie charts showing expenses and revenue for 2022-2023
Community Partner Amy Loflin stands in the garden at Homeward Bound of Marin

Community Partner: Bank of America

One of the country’s largest and oldest banks creates local impact with support for culinary training, holiday needs and our 26-row produce garden.  

This year, Bank of America made a special investment with the gift of a new greenhouse to boost production in the garden that helps supply 12,000 meals made per month for our shelter and housing programs.

The updated space is outfitted with irrigation, there’s room to start an estimated 1,500 plants from seed each season.

“Homeward Bound has been a longtime partner of ours because of our shared mission to help make lives better for Marin County families, seniors, and veterans,” says Amy Loflin, Senior Vice President, Market Executive for Marin, Napa and Sonoma.

She sees volunteer projects as a useful way to forge closer connections with colleagues. That’s how the greenhouse project initially took shape.

“We had two teams that needed to know each other better, so we scheduled a work day in the garden,” Loflin says. One of the volunteers chatting with David Jordan, our garden supervisor, learned that the existing greenhouse had outlived its life span.

Several local teams at the bank contributed  toward the purchase of the new greenhouse, which will see its first sprouts in October. “Doing this project together also broadened the relationships that were formed while volunteering,” she says. 

The greenhouse was the latest manifestation of this partnership. Bank of America volunteers also have donated gift cards with handmade holiday greetings for our participants and helped build a pathway with pavers at the New Beginnings Center shelter.

Additionally, through grant funding, Bank of America supports training at Fresh Starts Culinary Academy and our social enterprise projects as pathways to financial opportunity.

“Homeward Bound has a long, impactful track record lifting people out of poverty and helping them develop sustainable ways to not just remain on steady ground but to grow and succeed,” Loflin says. “We are always thrilled to help this great organization any way we can.”

Volunteer Spotlight: Linda Varonin

When planning began to turn a longtime motel into supportive housing, Linda Varonin says she had questions. “I’ve lived in Corte Madera for 38 years, so of course I wanted to know who was going to live there,” she says.

She sees the community at La Casa Buena today as a joyful wonder. “All these people have amazing stories and to see them settle in is wonderful,” says Linda, who has organized a welcoming committee of sorts among her peers in the Corte Madera Women’s Club.

Volunteer Linda stands in a garden

The group visits monthly for “Second Saturdays” activities, which can be anything that brings people together for an hour or so. They have potted succulents, made cookies, planted a neglected garden corner and tried some art projects.

With other club members, she sets up in the Community Room where residents can join or not as they please. When no one chose to get dirty potting their own succulents, she put a dozen in small pots and left them on the table.

“I heard they were all adopted by residents the next day,” says Linda, a graduate of the Master Gardener training. 

The group always brings snacks “because food brings people together,” she says. Another day found her carrying a pizzelle cookie press to share fresh treats and Linda also demonstrated how to make fideo, a simple pasta dish that comes together in minutes.

Other club members have made their own contributions, including Janis Luft with her therapy dog, Eddie. The black Labrador visits happily with everyone while activities are under way.

“Really I want to know what the residents want to do,” says Linda, a retired special education teacher.  When someone suggested hatching butterflies, she helped them set up an enclosure with live caterpillars that stayed in the Community Room until eight butterflies emerged.

Recently Linda crossed paths with two of the residents at La Casa Buena during a stop at the library.

“That made me happy to see them out and about as neighbors. And we know each other’s stories,” she says.


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