The Mission:

To put an end to homelessness in Kern County through collaborative planning and action.

In This Section

For information: Homelessness Resources Administrative Assistant Jessica M. Janssen (661) 834-1580 or Jessica.F@uwkern.org. 

 


Sad Day, Union Tent City Walls Come Down, and More

4/10/2015

Dozens of service providers and community partners join with the residents in mourning the loss of what these households have called home for more than five years. These structures may not be where you or I would choose to sleep at night, but they did. Studies show that most people who enter homelessness acquire mental illness AFTER becoming homelessness due to the trauma, crime, and inhumane activities they experience living on the streets. Today our neighbors and fellow community members experienced even more trauma of living in homelessness. Their homes mattered to them. These residents matter to us!

While we have been grateful that the city has kept us informed about what would happen next (so that we could help people at the encampment understand the process) nothing could have prepared us for the sight of those tents being gone, the only worldly possessions of the residents strewn about while being searched or guarded by nearly a dozen officers; and a bulldozer roaring through where we had walked and talked together only a day before. Any tent “home” that happened to be within 10 feet of the fence was removed.

The life expectancy of someone who is homeless is 50-years-old. Realties like this – and the kindhearted people we came to known on a first name basis at the Union encampment - are the reasons the service providers of the KCHC have been diligently serving and providing outreach to the people there for several months. As of a week ago more than half of the residents had received services of some kind, as they began a path to housing. Yet, new tents popped up over the weekend. Oh how we wish the process could be faster and more affordable housing was available!

One might ask why more individuals don’t accept the offer of emergency shelter and choose to remain in the encampment. Most of the remaining tent residents are either couples or have a pet. They do not want to be separated from their source of support. Would you?

In Kern County, The Mission at Kern County’s shelter serves men and the Bakersfield Homeless Center is a shelter for families. Both shelters have made beds available to these residents. However, because the family shelter requires that women and children be in separate facilities than the men, with women unaccompanied by children staying in the dorms, only a few people had taken the opportunity.

We are pleased to share that the KCHC planning considerations for future community recommendations include the goal to have shelter facilities that accommodate a pet; and shelter that accommodates couples and families together. Unfortunately we simply do not have the means at this time for the current shelters - both active members of the Collaborative - to offer these accommodations.

Service providers remain dedicated to their work on the streets as experts in their field – getting people on a path to housing - while continually seeking new methods and strategies to maximize service together. Currently homelessness has been reduced 38% overall in Kern County (41% for single adults) since 2007.

Management is working diligently on the next necessary steps that include a study of duplication and gaps, and a cost benefit analysis in partnership with California State University Bakersfield. Soon the website www.KernHomeless.org will include a link so that community members can submit a location that they see people who are homeless in our community who may need help so that we can respond with outreach efforts. A community resources effort is nearly ready to launch providing education about the myths of homelessness and helping the community understand the reasons and culture of homelessness.

Please keep the residents at Union Avenue in your thoughts and the prayers of your faith. We will not stop working until every person who wants help can enter a path to housing and a life of wellness!

If you would like to contribute time, talent or invest in the work please visit www.KernHomeless.org. For more information about the Kern County Homeless Collaborative at United Way of Kern County contact Christine.L@UWKern.org or 661-834-2734.

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