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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

July, 2007



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Affordable Housing For The Soul
By Jacqueline Patterson

Recently, there was a review in the Coastal Post of social services available to residents of West Marin. The article found Bolinas somewhat lacking when compared to the food banks of San Geronimo Valley and Point Reyes Station, which may be true, but the latter two have food distribution so well covered that Bolinas might as well turn its attention to the more trying dilemmas of West Marin such as the obscene unavailability of affordable housing in the most materialistically gifted (dare we say bloated) county in America.
West Marin has a competent caring social services system in place and were it not for the unsightly quagmire that is low-income housing in Marin, it would be a great place to raise a family. The cost of living by the ocean is so high that dedication to hard work and responsibility is absolutely mandatory and the community commitment to good health, local economy, and sustainability in general provides a profound precedent for future generations to follow.

Bolinas, in particular, is a parental utopia; in stark contrast to the authoritarian cages that constitute America's public school system, the Bolinas-Stinson School staff nurture creativity with a curriculum that makes learning fun and worthwhile. Wouldn't it be beautiful if we could give more impoverished children such a priceless education by securing more low-income housing?

In May, the Bolinas Land Trust dedicated the Bolinas Station Duplexes, two new two bedroom units built to house small families that 1) qualify for affordable housing and, 2) make three times the rent, a standard qualification that most apartment complexes adhere to.

An income of more than four thousand dollars a month is required for a family of two to three people, which begs the question, "How is this 'low-income' housing?"

Executive Director, Lesa Kramer's reply to that question, when it was recently posed to her, clearly conveyed both her dedication to her position and her compelling competence: she stated that the Land Trust's obligation to its tenants was to act not only as a landlord but as an advocate as well. She lamented her inability to house more families and stated that she would love to see houses donated or even lent to the Land Trust. It was so empowering to witness such vision and passion that I momentarily contemplated asking her to come back to the Family Emergency Center at Homeward Bound, of which I had recently become a resident, and share her sense of purpose and vision, where it is desperately needed.

The Family Emergency Center of takes, on average, more than two months to get into, which to the rational mind, negates the term "emergency" and though it is designated as a thirty day shelter, many of the families residing in the rooms behind the Days Inn have been here upwards of six months, cooking meals in skillets and microwaves before washing dishes in a plastic tub positioned precariously over the bathtub. The FEC's Resource Coordinator, David Mann maintains that most residents have no problem making do with such accommodations but certainly the residents would benefit from the addition of a communal kitchen with a real oven and a well-maintained refrigerator. In addition, the utilization of such a space for "family" dinners would readily foster the requisite sense of community vital to the success of shelters such as this.

The lack of necessary resources such as internet and phone availability as well as the resources available here such as the freebox, which consists of garbage bags full of clothes/toys/books cast off by wealthy Marin residents piled on a locked Rubbermaid shelf system (contents unknown) reflect the apathetic nature of this place.

The Marin Independent Journal reported in April that Homeward Bound intends to spend more than nine million dollars erecting a new shelter, complete with an employment training facility, which is no doubt noble, but would it not make more sense to identify and eliminate the problems that exist in current programs. For instance, the Family Emergency Center would be well-served to observe the meaning of the word "family" with a little more reverence instead of interrupting the family reunification process with extra programs and procedures that men must undertake before joining the mothers of their child(ren) in the responsibility of parenting. Subjecting a toddler to the nightly absence of a father he hasn't seen for months because said father, just out of jail, has to meet the same requirements at a similar shelter seems cruel to me. Likewise, forcing a mother who is working diligently to uproot her small children and move to a long-term facility when she could be out of here in the next month by keeping with her current routine is insane.

With all the treatments available, one might think that family therapy might be much more effective and helpful than additional rules but it seems that Homeward Bound is too busy trying to clean up the self-destructive drug addicts (who played a crucial role indeed in the demise of their lives and the lives of their families) to consider the potentially positive consequences of strengthening interfamily relationships. All the counseling in the world, though, will not remedy the decay of a family with no future, no hope for a home.

It is unquestionably a daunting task for the wealthiest county in America to build affordable housing without obstructing the beautiful views but every child deserve to sleep in his/her own bed every night and every parent deserves the right to work as hard as they have to so as to ensure all of their child(ren)'s physiological, emotional, and educational needs are being met. No community in all of Marin, perhaps no community in all of American, can provide a better environment for ethical growth than Bolinas.

So if you need food for your body, you might want to go to Point Reyes or San Geronimo Valley but if you need nourishment for your soul and you're not afraid of a little hard work, welcome to Bolinas.


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