State Grant Expands Career Training at Homeward Bound of Marin

By Giving List Staff   |   February 10, 2023

Culinary training and support services to enter the workforce will grow at Homeward Bound of Marin with help from $750,000 in state grant funding.

The award from California’s “Breaking Barriers Initiative” focuses on career training and creating employment pathways through Fresh Starts Culinary Academy, Homeward Bound’s 10-week program in core culinary skills.

With the grant, Homeward Bound plans to expand capacity and partnerships for the program that has operated in Novato since 2001. The agency also serves as Marin County’s chief provider of shelter and supportive housing for families and adults transitioning out of homelessness.

“Homeward Bound is thrilled and grateful to expand training options for our culinary students, enhancing skills and providing amazing, collaborative opportunities to grow in the dynamic food industry,” sats Mary Kay Sweeney, Homeward Bound’s Co-Chief Executive Officer.

Students from Homeward Bound’s shelter and housing programs, as well as low-income students from the community, receive the award-winning Fresh Starts training plus job placement support at no cost. The current class of students began Jan. 3.

The grant allows Homeward Bound to add support for culinary graduates in six-month transitional jobs, including a new culinary instructor position. Transitional employees work in the agency’s social enterprise businesses, including The Key Room event venue and Wagster Treats premium dog biscuits.

Another addition is a new partnership with Community Action Marin (CAM) to provide bilingual financial literacy training and professional development coaching for transitional employees, as well as outreach support to future students. Homeward Bound also plans to restart an employer advisory board for Fresh Starts Culinary Academy that paused during the pandemic.

“Our collaboration will focus on employment readiness and job placement to ensure graduates are successful in securing meaningful employment once they complete the program,” says Heather Bettini, CAM’s Senior Director, Economic Justice. 

Homeward Bound maintains wraparound support services for trainees, including transit vouchers, professional development courses, life skills training, job search assistance, housing navigation, and links to community resources for healthcare, mental health, childcare or other needs.

Fresh Starts Culinary Academy offers four 10-week sessions per year and expects to serve approximately 50 students plus transitional employees this year. In 2022, 82% of those enrolled in the training were unhoused and 85% of graduates secured employment within 30 days of completing the course.


Homeward Bound of Marin

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(415) 382-3363 x216
Development Director: Corry Kanzenberg


Our mission of “opening doors to safety, dignity, hope and independence” is coupled with a vision that “everyone deserves a place to call home.” Founded with a single family shelter in 1974, Homeward Bound has evolved to become a leading force in ending homelessness in Marin County. Services include counseling, job training, and workshops on parenting, credit repair, money management and other life skills. Fresh Starts Culinary Academy forms the heart of our training program and ties closely to our social enterprise ventures.

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My mom worked three jobs and we often counted on food banks. I always worked in restaurants since I was a teenager. Even when my husband and I had our own business, it helped stretch the budget with our kids. When the wildfires happened, everything shut down – my job disappeared. It was my chance to go to Fresh Starts Culinary Academy at Homeward Bound, which I knew about but I never had the time. Even though I had a lot of experience, there was so much that I gained. It was life-changing for me.
Janin Harmon
Executive Chef at Mary Isaak Center
and 2018 graduate of Fresh Starts Culinary Academy

Help Open Homes for Heroes

Building new apartments for 24 unhoused veterans in Novato is the latest campaign by Homeward Bound of Marin in its quest to end homelessness in Marin County.

That goal has never been more urgent, with the National Library of Medicine noting the average lifespan of an unhoused person is 17.5 years shorter than that of the general population. 

“It just got to be real hard,” says Andrew, a veteran who received help from the organization. “If Homeward Bound wasn’t there, I probably wouldn’t be here anymore.” 

With a gift of $1,860, you can provide a month of accommodation and support for a veteran, senior, or other individual facing the crisis of homelessness. 

Your gift of $25,000 helps complete the new housing for veterans, with naming rights for one of 24 apartments scheduled to open in 2024. 

Your gift of $1,000,000 includes the exclusive opportunity to name the veterans building.

Key Supporters

BioMarin Pharmaceutical
Built for Zero
Catalyst Kitchens
Chef John Ash
Chef Heidi Krahling
Chef Joanne Weir
County of Marin
Disabled American Veterans
Charitable Service Trust
Dominican Sisters of San Rafael
Sammy Hagar
Harbor Point Charitable Foundation
The Hellman Foundation
The Jacques Pépin Foundation
Marin Charitable
Marin Community Foundation
Peter E. Haas Jr. Family Fund
Tamalpais Pacific
Valley Oak Wealth Management