REST: A Program for Homeless That Works
It is a sad reality that in a County with so many resources, we have so many people who have no place to sleep and who go hungry. Many of them are working; many of them grew up here or lived here before finding themselves on the street. The root causes are many: lack of affordable housing, lack of mental health services, and the lingering impact of the recession. The result: people are sleeping in cars, in doorways and along freeways, panhandlers beg along median strips and on street corners, and fires are caused by illegal camp sites in our marshes and hills.
There is no single solution to such a complex problem. But there is a program that has been working for the last six winters to keep 60 men and women from sleeping on the streets, in their cars, and in our hills and marshes. It is the REST program and REST wants to expand from being a winter shelter to year round, providing shelter and dinner from 5pm to 7am.
What is REST?
REST (Rotating Emergency Shelter Team) is a public/private partnership between the County and over 40 congregations and civic groups to provide emergency shelter. For six years, REST host congregations have successfully provided 40 men and 20 women a safe and warm place to sleep in the winter. Each night volunteers bring home-cooked meals to share with the REST guests for a communal dinner, creating a network of community support. Last season over 2000 volunteers from over 40 institutions participated in this program.
How does REST work?
The St. Vincent de Paul Society runs REST. REST operates on a behavioral model. Each night, from mid-November to mid-April, intake counselors assess the guests’ ability to cooperate and live in community for the night. REST guests are picked up by bus from designated locations and driven to the host congregation where they have dinner with the volunteers and then spend the night. In the morning, they are bussed back. There are no walk-ins or walk-outs; there are no daytime services. There is security on site all night. REST has been incident free for its entire time.
How is REST currently funded?
The County and the Marin Community Foundation fund REST. San Rafael and the other cities and towns do not fund REST. Food, shelter space, and on site utilities are all donated by the host congregations. The women are currently sheltered in the Wellness Center, where volunteers bring in dinner to share each night.
Why is REST seeking a year-round home?
The rotating shelter was meant to be a temporary fix while a long-term solution was found. After six years of successful operation, REST congregations are seeking a single site year round home. When REST closes its doors each April 16, many REST guests have no safe place to sleep. Choices include illegal campsites and sleeping in cars, under overpasses, in parks and in doorways. None of these are safe for the homeless or for the surrounding communities. Homeless campsites are a major cause of fires in the County. Homeless women are particularly vulnerable on the streets. The host congregations and the Wellness Center cannot commit to a year-round use of their facilities. But the REST volunteers are committed to continuing to serve this population year round. Therefore REST is looking for a single year round site.
What would a year round REST program look like?
- It would operate in one location 365 nights a year, but only during the same hours that it currently operates. That is approximately 5:00 pm until 7:00 am.
- It would have room to house the same number of guests, it currently houses, 40 men and 20 women.
- There would be room for guests to both sleep and eat.
- It would have restrooms.
- It would be ADA compliant.
- It would have a kitchen for cooking and / or serving dinner.
- It would have well lit adequate parking for the volunteers who would continue to donate their time and their services not only to prepare food, but also to have dinner with REST guests.
- It would still have on site all night security.
- It would continue to be run professionally by St. Vincent de Paul or a similar, qualified institution.
- Although it would no longer rotate, this shelter would continue to screen guests each night as to their ability to be in community and to bring screened guests to and from the site by bus – no walk ins or walk outs.
How will a year round REST be funded?
REST supporters believe that homelessness is a countywide issue, not just the county’s issue, and not just San Rafael’s. They estimate the annual operating budget for a year-round shelter will be $1.25 million. This is an increase from the current $350,000 budget and is largely due to increases in rent, utilities, security and staffing.
Because homelessness is a countywide issue, REST is proposing a collaborative funding strategy, sharing the costs between the County, the 11 jurisdictions, and in-kind contributions from REST congregations and independent fund raising:
- 40% or $500,000 from the county
- 20% or $250,000 from the 11 cities and towns
- 20% or $250,000 from private funders, including MCF
- 20% or $250,000 from the congregations and civic groups as in-kind donations
REST has proposed a ‘fair share’ formula for the cities and towns. Half of the $250,000 will be split equally among the 11 jurisdictions and half is based on the population of each (sort of like the Senate and the House approach). Based on the formula, REST has asked San Anselmo for $19,699, Tiburon for $17,419 and Novato for $46,437. The Town of Fairfax has pledged its fair share of $16,382. REST is in the process of presenting fair share proposals to the other jurisdictions.
Where will the year-round REST site be located?
The REST Advisory Council (composed of County staff, Marin Organizing Committee leaders, service providers and stakeholders) has visited sites all over the County that might be suitable locations for the shelter site, focusing primarily on SB-2 zoned areas in each city or town, on County-owned buildings on County-owned land, and on available sites within the faith community. REST is not considering sites that are in neighborhoods or in downtown San Rafael.
Marin homeless shelter committee steps up push for funding [OCT 12 2O14]
Editorial on need for emergency shelter following Corte Madera fire [JAN 09 2014]