Homeward Bound of Marin

History of Homeward Bound of Marin

Our first shelter for four families opened in 1974 in San Rafael as Marin County’s interfaith community sought with vision and compassion to address the problem of homelessness. 

Initially named the Marin Housing Center, our agency organized a winter shelter in a 5,000-square foot tent that rotated through various cities. It operated at the National Guard Armory in San Rafael from 1987 to 1991, at the former World College West campus in 1992, and at the Marin Civic Center in 1993. Late that year it finally arrived at the former Hamilton Naval Air Base on a plot of land surrounded by barbed wire -- an internment camp for the homeless! 

In 1994, Novato city officials began work on plans for civilian use of the Hamilton base. After lengthy talks, the council agreed to develop a shelter and signed a 99-year land lease at $1 per year on an 18,000-square-foot parcel for this purpose. 

The county and agencies like Marin Housing Center continued to grapple with the realization that shelter alone did not solve homelessness. The answer lay in opening doors to new futures and livelihoods for independent living. 

In 1996, reflecting these goals, the Marin Housing Center became Homeward Bound of Marin, with a mission of “Opening doors to safety, dignity, hope and independence.” 

Homeward Bound of Marin was selected to operate the new Hamilton center, which was envisioned as a campus with shelter, job-training facilities and on-site employment for homeless individuals. New Beginnings Center opened in 2000 with help from myriad Marin businesses, government and service agencies, schools and community groups. 

Its success immediately led to talk of “the next step” for people completing their journeys from crisis to stability to thriving. This concept became The Next Key Center, which opened in November 2008 with 32 affordable studio apartments, room to grow the Fresh Starts Culinary Academy and space to expand social enterprise businesses like rental of The Key Room event space, on-site catering and production of chocolate Halo Truffles. It also includes administrative offices for Homeward Bound of Marin. 

Other programs operated by Homeward Bound include the 40-bed Mill Street Center, the county’s only emergency shelter for adults, which opened in 1986. An emergency shelter program for families began operating from two motels in Marin in 1993 and continues today as the 14-room Family Emergency Center in San Rafael. 

Our original 4-family shelter has become the second-step Family Resource Center; renovations have expanded the space to nine family rooms. 

We began serving people with persistent mental illness in 1987 at the former Carmel Hotel in San Rafael now called the Voyager Carmel Center. Our Palm Court permanent supportive housing program for people with persistent mental illness opened in 2001. 

Homeward Bound also focuses on permanent solutions to homelessness by providing long-term transitional and permanent housing for families and adults. Fourth Street Center in San Rafael, with 20 single-room units, opened as Homeward Bound’s first permanent housing program in 1995; while the Meadow Park and Family Park transitional housing programs opened between 2002 and 2004 for adults and families in transition. 

In recent years Homeward Bound has partnered with affordable housing developers to provide permanent shelter solutions for homeless families and adults. Beginning in 2007, we entered a partnership with EAH where Homeward Bound staff provides supportive services to formerly homeless families resident in their “San Clemente Village” program in Corte Madera. 

Homeward Bound partners also with Eden Housing Corp. to provide services to formerly homeless families and seniors at the Fireside Apartments in Mill Valley. The agency will take a similar role for the Warner Creek apartment complex for seniors, which is set to open in Novato in late 2012.
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