Homelessness in Mill Valley
February 23, 2023
Homelessness is an issue impacting many communities across the nation, and we share community concerns about the health and safety of our unhoused neighbors in Mill Valley. We want to assure you that the issue of homelessness in our community receives our full attention and we are actively working to assist those individuals that are currently experiencing homelessness.
The City, and the Mill Valley Police Department (MVPD) have received reports from community members regarding unhoused individuals in Mill Valley. Community members have expressed concern about their welfare, concern that it appears nothing is being done, and that people are upset seeing individuals experiencing homelessness in high visibility locations. MVPD has also received reports of unhoused individuals accumulating belongings, limiting access to buildings and sometimes blocking the public right of way, such as the sidewalk.
Responding to Homelessness - A Community-wide Effort
MVPD officers play an active role in coordinating and communicating between agencies, property owners, concerned community members and individuals experiencing homelessness to work towards the best outcome for all involved. MVPD works closely with the following local agencies to provide support and assistance to unhoused individuals:
- Community Alternative Response Team (CARE)
- Helping Older People Excel (HOPE)
- Mobile Crisis Team
- Downtown Streets Team
These agencies offer a variety of services to people in need, such as wellness checks and transportation to the Marin County Crisis Stabilization Unit, or other local housing and mental health providers. They connect people with mental health services, housing programs, professional consultation, assessment and counseling. They provide personal services coordination, skills building, and bridging to resources that will help support individuals on their path to becoming housed and stabilized.
In most cases, agency partners contact individuals experiencing homelessness on a weekly basis to offer services. Unhoused community members may choose whether or not to accept the assistance.
MVPD Resources and Response to Homelessness
MVPD officers undergo on-going training on the challenges and opportunities presented by members of our community experiencing homelessness. Our officers take a training course offered through the Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) titled Homelessness and Policing: A Collaborative Approach in order to better understand and navigate assisting our unhoused neighbors.
We are aware there are times when mental health challenges are also associated with those experiencing homelessness. For this reason, MVPD sends its officers through Crisis Intervention Training. This training provides law enforcement personnel with the skills necessary to assist them in dealing with individuals experiencing mental illness. They are instructed on the different types of mental illness and medications, how to communicate with those experiencing mental illness, and the resources available to assist them.
The Mill Valley Police Department currently has a Homeless Liaison Officer who participates in monthly collaborative meetings with County Health and Human Services. This Officer works closely with the service providers listed above.
MVPD’s Homeless Liaison Officer and most MVPD officers know Mill Valley unhoused community members by name, know their specific circumstances, and have worked over periods of time to establish a relationship with them. Officers carry and distribute pocket resource cards that provide contact information for services related to emergency shelters, crisis counseling hotlines, emergency food, clothing, transportation, and youth services.
When there is a concern about the health and safety of an unhoused community member, MVPD will make contact with the individual to get to know them. They will inquire about family or friends that they may contact in order to provide assistance. If a contact is made, MVPD will see if there is an opportunity for assistance or housing from the family contact. In some cases, family contacts do not wish to engage further with the individual experiencing homelessness. At the same time, MVPD will reach out to the local service agencies listed in the previous section to provide support and assistance.
If the person experiencing homelessness is using private property to rest or store their belongings, MVPD will contact the property owner to discuss the issue and address their concerns as well.
Navigating Needs and Finding Compassionate Solutions
Homelessness is an issue that affects people in every community throughout California and our nation. It is important to acknowledge that homelessness is not a crime, and that people experiencing homelessness have rights protected by law. At the same time, property owners also have rights, and if a person is on private property without permission of the owner, this is considered trespass.
Through regular briefing training MVPD remains current on legal updates that affect what we can and cannot enforce associated with those experiencing homelessness.
We recognize that this is a difficult issue and we have City staff as well as agency partners working daily on helping our unhoused neighbors find services and housing to meet their needs
Our agency partners advise that it takes time to build a relationship and trust with individuals to the point where they may be interested in accepting the services offered. Encounters can take place over many months or even years. We thank you for your understanding and patience, and offer some ways for you to get involved in the section below.
What You Can Do
Bringing individuals experiencing homelessness food, money or items may feel like the most compassionate action, but in some cases, this causes the individual to refuse assistance from local agencies, subjecting them to continued exposure in harsh and unsafe conditions.
The best way to assist people experiencing homelessness in Marin is to donate or volunteer directly through social service agencies and groups working with our community.
- Homeward Bound Marin – Homeward Bound of Marin is committed to providing services to transition individuals and families into stable housing. Donate here.
- St Vincent de Paul Marin – An independent, nonprofit organization committed to providing compassionate care and critical services to residents of Marin County who are struggling to make ends meet, but are not receiving the help they need. Donate here.
- Downtown Streets Team – Downtown Streets Team builds Teams that restore dignity, inspire hope, and provide a pathway to recover from homelessness. Team Members are unhoused neighbors or folks at risk of experiencing homelessness. They receive access to case management, system navigation, and employment placement services from trained DST Case Managers and Employment Specialists. Teams engage in community beautification and clean-up projects that help challenge common negative perceptions of homelessness. Donate here.
- Ritter Center – Ritter Center’s mission is to prevent and resolve homelessness and improve the health, dignity and well-being of people living in poverty in Marin County by providing high-quality, culturally sensitive, easily accessible medical care and social services. Donate here.
- Adopt A Family Marin – Adopt a Family Marin’s mission is to prevent homelessness by providing support for families in crisis and pathways to regain economic security. Connect.
Mill Valley Police Department
1 Hamilton Drive
Mill Valley, CA 94941