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“ Homelessness Can Happen To Anyone ” – Case Management Director Colin McDonnell

May 29th, 2020

“ Homelessness Can Happen To Anyone ” – Case Management Director Colin McDonnell

“One car accident. A nasty spill on a sidewalk. COVID-19. Any kind of circumstance can shift your life story into homelessness. It only takes a second,” says Ritter Center Case Management Director Colin McDonnell.

Colin helps people to understand and evaluate care options to achieve their goals. Working with disenfranchised and vulnerable populations, Colin has seen firsthand the dramatic rise in numbers of people in need struggling with the high cost of living here. COVID-19 will surely widen the gaps in equity that were already so severe.

The silver lining in the pandemic is that homelessness can be a temporary phase for someone if they receive assistance. Trauma without a support network to fall back on leads to enduring homelessness.

This is where Ritter Center comes in: medical care, behavioral therapy, food and housing services in one place. We provide a complete support solution for families and individuals who are on the edge of becoming homeless or who are homeless. Equally important, we provide a vital dose of human connection.

“When the shelter-in-place began, we had to temporarily close our campus while we adjusted our services,” recalls Colin.

“How do we stay safe when we need to see people face to face in the community more than ever before?” Colin asked.

We realized the urgency of re-opening to maintain connections and continue our vital social services. It is a tricky balancing act. How do you social distance while reaching out to offer human kindness and connection to community when the world is shuttered?

We knew we could find a way.

Since the shelter-in-place mandate, Ritter Center has pivoted to telemedicine, adjusted health and safety protocols to continue to see patients in-person, and focused on helping pay the rent for those who have lost income – the key to preventing homelessness.

Why is face to face suddenly more critical?

Ritter Center is often the only connection a person or family has each day in a rapidly shifting world where suddenly everything is closed and their financial resources have disappeared.

“Libraries are closed. Coffee shops are closed. Public toilets are closed. People have lost their jobs. They feel more isolated than ever, and we are fielding a lot of questions. How can I pay my rent? Where do I shower? How can I charge my phone?” notes Colin.

Having a home base has never been more important. Tolerating uncertainty is hard enough when you have shelter, but imagine if you couldn’t come home.

Thanks to donors, our dedicated team can help your neighbors keep their faith in humanity as we work to maintain community access to information, essential medical care, and shelter.

“Human connection is more important than ever during COVID-19. This simple act of humanity leads to a person feeling supported which might mean getting medical vitals checked, picking up a meal to eat, or talking about housing,” urges Colin.

Without Ritter Center, there would be many more people needing urgent help right now.

We can’t control the pandemic. But we can control how we respond.

As Colin says “we act with intentionality. Knowing how to be present makes a world of difference.”

It only takes a few seconds to make a donation to shift the life stories of our most vulnerable friends in Marin for a lifetime.

Colin McDonnell is Ritter Center’s Case Management Director.


Ritter Center is on the front lines during COVID-19. We are helping to pay the rent for those who have lost their income — the key to preventing homelessness and our healthcare team continues to give out hundreds of food parcels at our food pantry, provide medical and mental healthcare, and deliver a much needed dose of human kindness to every person we can support.

But, our resources are being stretched beyond what we could have imagined. Rental assistance funding from the County, given to multiple organizations, including Ritter Center, ran out in a matter of days.

We have launched an EMERGENCY FUND APPEAL to raise $75,000 to help vulnerable families and individuals in Marin keep their homes and find shelter through this crippling pandemic. Help us reach our goal and support those on the edge of homelessness by making a gift today!

Let’s not let income loss = home loss.