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Suburban Blight: Homeless Marin

Updated: Mar 18, 2021

Politicians, even lousy politicians, are often REALLY good at changing a subject. Recently, at a zoom meeting I witnessed a subject changing pivot that was something of a classic moment.

If you live in Marin, if you live ANYWHERE in the San Francisco Bay Area, you are aware that we have homeless encampments. If you are unaware of this.... Well... We have pictures. All taken on the fly by a cellphone. These aren't even the worst pictures. Under the highway overpass in San Rafael... On the lawn behind the library in downtown Novato (a.k.a. Lee Garner Park). But this is a real problem. These are real people living on the streets, on the asphalt, in the parks. There are a lot of different reasons WHY people are homeless. The reality is we do have a massive homeless problem... and we have a drug problem. Back in October I found what appeared to be a bloody hypodermic syringe on a public path in a public park in Marin. (It was a used hypodermic syringe.... It appeared to have blood on it. I don't know if it was blood. But it was a used hypodermic syringe left on a public path in a public park in suburbia.)

I took a picture of the syringe and fetched some gloves and disposed of it by putting it in an empty soda bottle and taking it to the nearest pharmacy to use their "sharps" container. It was a memorable moment for me. I've seen needles on the sidewalk in San Francisco, but never in suburbia. Never in a public park in Marin. Since then... well... we have more needles. And frankly, as a woman, I don't feel that safe walking alone in the parks anymore. And that is a tragedy. I'm a taxpayer... a resident... I try to be healthy, I like to walk. What does it say about Marin and suburbia in general when it doesn't feel safe to go to a park?

These are all questions that were NOT voiced at a local zoom meeting about homelessness... Well... some of the residents wanted to talk about it.... the "stakeholders" --local politicians, random "experts"-- just pivoted and starting congratulating themselves and each other on their Covid response and the need to be "sensitive and respectful." A homeless advocate talked about Covid and housing waitlists. A local businessman suggested the homeless encampment be moved to the lawn of the Civic Center, and some political types suggested that the REASON they didn't want the homeless encampment within sight of THEIR offices wasn't because they didn't want the homeless community in THEIR parking lot... but instead because the space was being used because of "Covid"... ah yes, Covid... the everything excuse.

Amazing to think that before Covid politicians had to come up with OTHER excuses why they couldn't do anything to fix an obvious problem. Maybe to some, large homeless encampments and heaps of trash in public parks aren't a problem... Frankly I think it is a disgrace. It is a public shame and a black eye to this community. People should have homes. People should ALSO feel safe using public areas. And... as voters and taxpayers we deserve public servants who don't pivot and change the subject when confronted with a real problem. If you work for the public and you DON'T think we have a homeless problem in this county you are probably too unaware to do your job.

It is nothing short of NONSENSE to claim that we don't have a homeless crisis in Marin. It is insane to mouth platitudes claiming that the county is on top of the problem. Who are we going to believe? Politicians? Or our own eyes? Drive around... walk around... Count the tents.

Is this what a public park should look like?

Would you want to park in a parking lot next to this?

Would you feel comfortable walking down this path?

Would you want this next to a creek in your neighborhood? This is Novato... a few feet from the public library.

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Jo Prabhu
Jo Prabhu

Today I had to take my car into the shop and walk back. It was the first time in 5 years I was terrified to walk past the 4th/5th street encampments in San Rafael. Even at 2pm, waiting at crosswalks or for the lighting to change next to the odd stranger or the homeless wheeling grocery carts, I wondered who else I may encounter on the near-deserted streets, who had a gun, were they illegal and if I was accosted, who would show up to help? . The masks disguise people's faces and don't help but I'm glad I stay fit as I looked backward more often than forward to check on who could be following! How did we…


These pictures speak volumes, thank you, but its time we drag Jared Huffman from behind his tax payer- office hideout, and hand him a broom to clean up the mess he created! Now that's a picture Marin needs to see!

We pay mucho bucks for the privilege of living here and continue to pay 'elected' representatives who don't do their jobs. They freely allocate tax-payer property to the homeless without our consent and if Huffman, Pelosi or Newsome truly cared, why don't they lead by example and hang up a 'COME ON IN' sign on their own million dollar vineyards?

Sadly, after yesterdays cave-in by the 13-termers in Congress, its clear that Kevin Mc'Carthy has no control of his own…

Sarah Nagle
Sarah Nagle

Quitting voting usually just ends up supporting the people you like the least. And yes, although it is tempting to lay this all at the feet of Jared Huffman the County Supervisors and other local politicians deserve to shoulder some blame. As a county level political group the MarinGOP makes an effort to focus on county level politics. Frankly, we believe Marin County would be less of a literal and metaphorical mess if more people focused on the buts and bolts of low level local politics. Have you considered running for city council? Or county supervisor in your district?

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