Spring/Summer 2024

We’re busy arranging a bountiful homecoming with your help for the 24 veterans who will settle into our newest housing program.

Two women in a brand new apartment kneel with a large sign that says "Welcome Home"

Through five decades, we have laid many foundations, both visible and invisible. The visible ones underlay buildings planned with care to welcome individuals and families desperate for a place to call home. The figurative ones shape stories of courage, tenacity, hope, and resilience from people we’ve had the privilege to serve.

Dear Friends to the End of Homelessness...

We’re celebrating our 50th birthday! Witnessing so many journeys home for men, women and children has been a parallel journey in awe and gratitude. Thanks to everyone who has partnered with us at Homeward Bound, thousands of people are home – to themselves and to their families. We’re grateful to find so many who share our vision that everyone deserves a place to call home, the cornerstone of our work.

Through five decades, we have laid many foundations, both visible and invisible. The visible ones underlay buildings planned with care to welcome individuals and families desperate for a place to call home. The figurative ones lie at the base of stories you will read in this newsletter. Stories of courage, tenacity, hope, and resilience from people who never thought they were worthy. People who seldom experienced success and who can hardly believe their achievements.

The foundational work we have done together—volunteers, supporters, program residents, shelter participants, board and staff—has paved lasting paths for each journey home.

What better way to celebrate 50 years than to build 50 homes from the ground up! Ending veteran homelessness in Marin has been a community goal for several years—24 units of housing here at Hamilton will do just that. Another 26 units of workforce housing will create homes for families and individuals who are opening career paths and expanding their employment. Each of these new programs will offer permanent supportive housing, bringing vital services and resources for people to build their new futures.

There is no one who does not want to see an end to homelessness. Together we are getting there, one person and one family at a time. We are humbled and gratified by your support, allowing us to move forward with 50 years of insight from achieving just that!

Thank you for being part of the journey. We look forward to sharing more inspiring stories of success and celebrating more milestones together.

New stucco building with solar panels on the roof and a portico entry facing the viewer.

A Welcome Wagon is Rolling for Veterans

Thanks to you, veterans are coming home! We’re busy arranging a bountiful homecoming with your help for the 24 veterans who will settle into our newest housing program.

These homes for heroes will open with full convenience kitchens, beds, sofas, wall-mounted television screens and a small dining table with chairs. Thanks to the Rotary Clubs of Marin County, residents will find beds made, towels hung in bathrooms and dishes ready.

“Each person will have a really comfortable space to relax and start getting to know their neighbors,” says Bailey Tiura, who will oversee the program with David Brown, Veterans Housing Coordinator.

The new tenants will retain affordable rents with vouchers that allow them to pay 30% of their income. It typically takes several weeks to complete paperwork and make all the move-in arrangements, Bailey says.

During that time, she enjoys meeting each person and learning what kind of activities or outings they would like to see, along with how the program can support them.

“They already have the shared experience of being veterans and a shared experience of being unhoused,” David adds. “That’s a lot in common even if they haven’t gotten to know each other yet.”

With this program, Marin County will become the second in California to end veteran homelessness!

“In collaboration with all our county partners, we have focused intently on ending veteran homelessness in Marin. When we achieve this, it will speak volumes about the collective determination of our community,” Co-Chief Executive Officer Mary Kay Sweeney says.
Key funding for the project includes a $4 million allocation in the California state budget; $3 million from the state’s Veterans Housing and Homelessness Prevention Program; $2 million from the County of Marin, and $2.2 million from Marin Community Foundation.

The program also received a $750,000 federal budget allocation and a $400,000 grant from The Home Depot Foundation, along with support from many generous community partners.

Black woman sitting in an office talks to white woman taking her blood pressure with a medical cuff.

Programs Add Health Supports to Boost Success

A major effort to add support for Medi-Cal patients has put Homeward Bound of Marin at the forefront in a statewide initiative to create health equity for California’s most vulnerable residents.

Starting in 2022, Homeward Bound began writing enhanced care plans for at-risk participants in shelter and housing programs. A $1.3 million grant from the state’s CalAIM initiative added staff, training and tools to cooperate more closely with health care providers.

“We see increasing needs with our clients who are older and have health issues,” says Anna Hurtado, Chief Program Officer. “With more access to medical information, we have taken our support to another level.”

The goal is responding to issues in the most beneficial way possible. For example, our staff can now determine quickly if a missing client has been hospitalized. That means they could hold their place in our programs instead of marking them absent.

“They can return to the shelter rather than have to start over. That person is not falling off the path to housing with every medical issue that arises,” Anna says. More than 350 people have been enrolled so far in enhanced care.

Our team gains insight from medical history to evaluate housing options, she adds. “You cannot separate medical need from housing. Our goal is to minimize the barrier that health issues pose for someone to find housing.”

People entering our shelters now have the chance to do a depression screening and a blood pressure check, which proved to be a critical change, says Hanna McCarthy, Program Director for the 80-bed New Beginnings Center.

“It was a new model for staff because we’re not medical professionals. We’re social workers,” she says. “It felt like an over-step at first but it was eye-opening for us and for the clients.”

More than once, our staff reached out to health care providers about a high blood pressure reading and were advised to send someone straight to the emergency room. Many participants now schedule a weekly check, Hanna says.

Homeward Bound last year received national recognition in the “Supporting the Safety Net Awards.” Our nomination by Partnership HealthPlan, the state’s Medi-Cal provider, cited Homeward Bound “as a forward-thinking partner in caring for our Medi-Cal members and other populations at risk.”

“Having a seat at the table of medical partnership has allowed our team to be more effective,” Hanna says. “It has taken a lot of work to implement but our case managers are very enthusiastic. Everyone knows it’s making a difference.”

Blond woman smiles at the camera. She wears a beige tank top and has a lanyard of keys around her neck.

Shelly Rebuilds Health and Hope in New Home

Walking through the doors of our San Rafael shelter marked a turning point for Shelly after years of chaos. She turned away from drug use that started in her teens and began to look to the future.

“What a gift has been given to me,” says Shelly, who now has a home in our supportive housing program at Jonathan’s Place with her dog, Bailey. “I’m so thankful for a room to get messy, so thankful to clean it up.”

The nightly meal delivered for residents is “five-star,” she says. After three years of not seeing her children, she has reconnected with two adult sons and a 12-year-old daughter.

“If you saw me when I walked in, you’d see a scared, skinny woman who needed help,” she says. “I’ve had a chance to meet myself, know myself and heal my body.”

Drugs played a part in her life for decades, but Shelly says life “really became sour” after her mother died and she was evicted from their home. She slept under bridges and searched for food in a garbage can or the bins behind a pizza restaurant.

Eventually she moved to a friend’s camper on Binford Road in Novato, but the relationship got rocky and Shelly moved outside to a tent. That’s where an outreach team told her about Homeward Bound of Marin.

“I was afraid to go to a shelter, but they kept coming back,” she says. Shelly believes the move probably saved her life.

During her time on the streets, Shelly says, she suffered two strokes and five small heart attacks. Her arrival at Jonathan’s Place took a detour when our staff asked to measure her blood pressure and found it dangerously high.

“I went to the hospital and decided that I didn’t want my kids to get a call that I was dead on the street,” Shelly says. Her sobriety began that day in May 2023 and hasn’t wavered.

Now she works three days a week for Downtown Streets Team, visiting Binford Road to help people clean up around the RVs parked there. She’s exploring the path to become a peer counselor.

“My life here is so amazing,” Shelly says. “I love the people and the whole idea of creating a place like this.”

Black man with short hair smiles at the camera. He is wearing gray shirt and standing by an apartment staircase.

James Tunes Up the Future with Family in Mind

Staying busy and tinkering with things have been long-lasting themes for James J., a U.S. Marine Corps veteran.

As a maintenance technician, he spends his overnight hours tuning up machines that sort packages for Amazon. He arrives home about 6:30 a.m. to work on a different project: reuniting with his wife and three children, ages 4,8 and 10, who are in the Philippines.

He came to Homeward Bound after living for months in a hotel, sapping his efforts to build savings and find stable housing. Now at our Next Key Apartments, James says support from our staff has opened a viable path for the future.

“I’ve been making payments on time, really started to save. Normally you don’t know where to find resources that can help and the networking here has been a benefit,” he says.

James joined the Marine Corps after high school, signing up to become an aviation technician. “I’ve been tinkering with model cars and everything else since I was 7,” he says.

When he ended up in aviation supply “counting nuts and bolts,” James chose a track to exit early from the service with an honorable discharge. “I felt I was not developing my skills,” he says.

Instead, his career has taken him around the world installing telephones, alarm systems and computer networks, sailing as a radio technician with a civilian contractor for the U.S. Navy, and working as chief engineer on an oil rig supply vessel.

He met his wife in Thailand in 2011, where they lived until she suffered a miscarriage. They decided she would live with her mother in the Philippines as they planned a move to the United States.

“It’s been a long time coming and difficult to build a base here while I am supporting my family there,” James says. He previously lived in a Mill Valley apartment until property owners leased the site to a university and the complex became student housing.

Having an affordable home has allowed him to make further career plans, he says. In time, James wants to purchase a home and launch his own company servicing electric car charging stations.

“Finding the stability and the positive connections at Homeward Bound was a big plus,” he says. “In five years, I think I’ll be able to move beyond what I’m doing now and start saving for college!”

Woman with glasses and brown hair in a ponytail stands in the kitchen. She is wearing a black chef coat and smiles while holding a plate of food dished from a serving line.

Amber Extends Culinary Career Path with Training

A year ago, Amber says she was “desperately in need of a better job.” She stumbled across Fresh Starts Culinary Academy online and enrolled in August 2023.

Amber now works as Café Manager for the Healthy Aging Campus opened in San Rafael by Vivalon. She supervises lunch service, which is open to the public, five days a week for up to 70 diners.

“I never would have gotten this position without Fresh Starts,” she says. “It was the extra bit of what I needed.”

A San Anselmo resident, Amber worked several jobs in food service and bartending. She realized that cooking skills would round out her resume, along with the chance to earn a ServSafe Manager certificate.

For much of her training, she left class at 3 p.m. to work an eight-hour restaurant shift. Also the mother of a busy teenage son, she recalls days when it was hard to stay awake for classroom portions of the Fresh Starts course.

“It was totally worth it. Without Fresh Starts, I would still be a server or bartender,” she says. “I wanted a change and Fresh Starts gives you the skills to work anywhere.”

Her job entails receiving lunch dishes prepared offsite, setting up the kitchen, and making sure things are ready to serve hot or chilled. She does cleanup and manages volunteers who deliver food to diners.

“My kitchen assistant works the cold side of the food line and I work the hot side,” Amber says. She collaborates with the chef who plans the weekly menus.

Amber recommends Fresh Starts to anyone who feels their opportunities need a boost. “If you want to get out of the kitchen, you get better service skills. If you’ve always been in the back of the house, you can step up to something better,” she says.

We're Building a Place for New Futures!

As the dust settles around new veterans housing, crews are digging to install plumbing for the last two buildings to complete our Novato campus.

Thanks to your support, we’re already moving to construct 26 more apartments for people transitioning out of homelessness and a hub for our mission-driven businesses and culinary job training.

We’ll see teams pouring concrete and framing the buildings in the coming weeks as we move toward a goal of completing both buildings before the year ends.

“Creating 50 units to celebrate our 50th – there’s no better way to celebrate our anniversary than to honor this vision,” says Mary Kay Sweeney, our Co-Chief Executive Officer.

As we reflect on our history, we’re inspired by the future accomplishments of residents settling into new housing and Fresh Starts Culinary Academy graduates stepping into new careers.

Tenants in the additional apartments will be families and individuals moving back into the workforce. “This is a place where people can re-establish a rent history and continue rebuilding their lives,” Mary Kay says.

The new center for on-the-job learning and expanded training will open just a few steps away. This hub will enlarge the horizon for our culinary trainees as social enterprises expand and employment grows.

Building a manufacturing bakery, a small teaching kitchen and two smaller event rooms will let our team develop career ladders in inventory management, sales, production baking and shipping, Mary Kay adds.

All the revenue from our mission-driven businesses – The Key Room event venue, Wagster Treats and Fresh Starts Chef Events – gets reinvested in training and services at Homeward Bound of Marin.

With your amazing generosity, we have raised $34 million – 94%of funds needed – to complete the campus. Thank you for investing in solutions to homelessness!

Teenage girl smiles at the camera. She has long curly light-brown hair and wears a white sweater.

Volunteer Spotlight: Brianna Dagnino

Childhood birthday parties in The Key Room left Brianna Dagnino with fond memories of making pizza with friends and getting manicures as part of a kiddie “spa day” in our event venue.

“My family is just very community-minded,” says Brianna, a Novato resident who estimates she has spent 600+ hours volunteering with Homeward Bound in the past five years. She’s a junior this year at Marin Catholic.

She started in 2018 by organizing the holiday meal at Warner Creek Senior Housing, where our staff coordinates services for 60 residents. That effort became an annual project with friends and family.

During the pandemic, Brianna delivered sandwiches every Monday and brought meals from our kitchen for people sheltering at home around Novato. With her family, she organized holiday gifts for our families and helped assemble furniture for an interim shelter. Over the past year, she has served dinner once a month at Jonathan’s Place, our adult shelter in San Rafael.

“I feel like it’s not something I do for recognition. I just like giving to others, it’s my way of loving. I want to keep volunteering until I leave for college,” she says.

Brianna also serves on the Marin County Youth Court and is part of the cheer team at Marin Catholic, which keeps her busy from July to February.

Her mother and father, who founded the Ayawaska restaurants in Petaluma and Novato, have always been involved, Brianna says. Ayawaska makes the monthly dinner for Jonathan’s Place shelter that Brianna delivers and serves.

“My parents immigrated to the States from Peru. My Dad always said that if we have the ability to provide help to our community, we should. It’s now our time to help others, since at one point my parents were the ones that needed help,” she says.

Brianna has made an impression at Warner Creek, where residents greet her by name and have sent personal letters of thanks.

“Brianna is a humble and giving human being,” says Monina Hamilton, our Service Coordinator at Warner Creek. “Our seniors simply adore Brianna’s spirit of giving and creating positivity.”

Dark-haired woman in sunglasses and taller gray-haired man stand by sign that says 'The Salvation Army - San Rafael Corps.' They wear gray Salvation Army jackets.

Community Partner Spotlight: Mark and Dora Stearns

Arriving in Marin two years ago, Mark and Dora Stearns did not expect their latest posting as captains in the Salvation Army to create a new kind of partnership for that 155-year-old organization.

Their work with Homeward Bound of Marin developed after training arranged in our kitchen for their canteen volunteers, who would be called upon to provide meals in case of a natural disaster or other emergency.

“We realized that Homeward Bound is working with many of the people we want to serve in the community,” he says. “No one nonprofit can do it all – it’s imperative that we pull together.”

With enthusiastic support from his 14-member advisory board, Mark proposed a plan to fulfill back-to-school needs for children in our family programs. Andrea Rey, our Community Engagement Coordinator, supplied sizes and details for clothing. The Salvation Army did the shopping and delivered in time for the first day of class.

“That was a big success, so we springboarded into Christmas,” he says. “It was such a joy to see things come together like Santa’s workshop.” Their ambitious effort to fulfill holiday wishes in all our programs delivered 600 gifts ready for wrapping by community volunteers.

They realized there was no other partnership quite like it in the Salvation Army, which operates in 132 countries.

“We think a partnership like this could have potential to work in other places,” says Mark, who already has started working on the back-to-school project for this year. “We feel like we got the most value for the investment of our donors by working with Homeward Bound.”

The icing on the cake came at a recent gathering for canteen teams, who competed in a practice drill to plan and execute a menu. The San Rafael team won first place for taste and budget, serving a chicken entrée with a side dish of rice noodles and vegetables.

“It was at the Homeward Bound kitchen that we learned how to make a beautiful dish like that. So it all came full circle,” he says.

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