The Mission:

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

For more information contact Project Manager Christine Lollar at (661) 834-2734 or Christine.L@UWKern.org.

 


History

A Legacy from Depression-Era Homeless Folks

It could be said that Bakersfield and Kern County would not be what they are today without the homeless.  

John Steinbeck's masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath, realistically depicts the plight of tens of thousands of displaced farmworkers from Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas, who came to California's fertile San Joaquin Valley seeking a better life during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Many of these desperate farming families settled here in Kern: first in homeless camps known as "Hoovervilles" at the time, later in federally-funded migrant camps, and eventually in homes they could afford.

This wave of homeless folks from half a nation away brought with them traditions and values (in the realms of family, faith, music, and work) that forever changed the local societal landscape. 

Maybe the generous, giving spirit Bakersfield and Kern County locals are famous for can be traced back to those homeless Dust Bowl migrants who knew the true value of a neighbor's help in a time of need.

Close to a century later, there are still more than 1,000 people sleeping in shelters or outdoors on any given night in Kern County. Many of them are no better off than the homeless migrants of the Dust Bowl, experiencing hunger, disease and social stigmatization. They sleep in cars, tents, under bridges, in sumps, abandoned buildings, or garages or sheds without electricity or running water. They lay their head down in places not meant for human habitation.    

Beginnings: A Precursor to the Kern County Homeless Collaborative 

In 1986, the Bakersfield City Council and Kern County Board of Supervisors jointly appointed the Kern County Homeless Coalition Task Force, consisting of elected officials, public agencies and private nonprofit organizations, local businesses and homeless people. The purpose of this task force was to recommend solutions to the problems of homelessness in order to better assist the homeless and to alleviate the adverse effects of homelessness on the Community--with a special emphasis on the Baker Street corridor, where many homeless can still be found.   

After meeting for about two years, the Homeless Coalition Task Force arrived at a set of recommendations, chief among which was to establish a homeless day center that would be a full service, one-stop center for the homeless population. It also recommended that the day center include an overnight shelter run by a lead agency appointed by the City--a recommendation that eventually led to the creation of the Bakersfield Homeless Center. Another recommendation that was not implemented was a reception center/detox facility for public inebriates as an alternative to having to spend the night in jail. (Recently, the KCHC has studied the Fresno Rescue Mission's model of a "detox tent" and will continue to explore alternatives.) 

 A Collaborative is Born      

The Kern County Homeless Collaborative (KCHC) was formed in 1998, following a town hall meeting to discuss gaps in the homelessness Continuum of Care (CoC), a set of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-funded programs designed to help the homeless return to a life of self-sufficiency. On January 18, 2005 the Kern County Homeless Collaborative officially adopted bylaws that have since been revised as the Collaborative has grown. 

Also in 2005, the Collaborative began working on Home First! Kern County’s 10-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness, at the urging of Bakersfield Mayor Harvey L. Hall. A committee of service providers and local government agency representatives was formed to work on the plan, which took more than two years to craft. Mayor Hall officially presented Home First! to the community in May 2008. Home First! is a living document that is designed to help our community stay on track with its goals to end homelessness. Throughout 2012, the KCHC conducted a year-long review and evaluation of Home First!   

Currently, KCHC membership consists of representatives from government agencies, nonprofit organizations, faith-based and advocacy groups, businesses, currently or formerly homeless consumers, community residents, and other stakeholders who have an interest in the problems faced by the homeless population.

There are two levels of membership in the KCHC:

  • General Members may attend all meetings and partner with the KCHC in a volunteer capacity; and 

  • Dues-Paying Members (membership costs $500 per year) enjoy special privileges such as participating in the application process to receive HUD funding, being able to vote on the business of the KCHC, and having their organization's logo, contact information, intake criteria and useful links featured on our website.

 Currently, the KCHC boasts 26 dues-paying members:

 

Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault
Griffin’s Gate Sober Living Center
Alpha House Safe Haven for Women and Children
Hearthstone Community Services
Ambassadors Emancipation Homes
Helping Hands Youth Facility, Inc.
Bakersfield Homeless Center
Housing Authority of the County of Kern
California Veterans Assistance Foundation
Independent Living Center of Kern County
Catholic Charities
Kern County Mental Health Department
City of Bakersfield Mayor Harvey L. Hall
New Life Recovery & Training Center
City of Wasco Housing Authority
Portfolio Properties
Clinica Sierra Vista
Stewards, Inc.
Community Action Partnership of Kern
The Mission at Kern County (formerly Bakersfield Rescue Mission
Flood Bakersfield Ministries
Turning Point of Central California
Golden Empire Affordable Housing
United Way of Kern County
Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance
Women’s Center High Desert

 

Besides dues-paying members there are dozens of others who are partnering with the KCHC in ending homelessness locally.

Mission

The mission of the Kern County Homeless Collaborative's is: To put an end to homelessness in Kern County through collaborative planning and action.

Members work in committees that meet monthly to share information, identify gaps in services to the homeless and at risk, and develop projects to address current challenges.  

Some of the most important responsibilities of the KCHC include:

  • Applying yearly for millions of dollars of funding to fight homelessness from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD);

  • Producing yearly reports that HUD uses to understand Kern's specific issues around homelessness (e.g., the Annual Homeless Assessment Report on Homeless, including Veterans; the Countywide Point-In-Time Homeless Count (also known as the Homeless Census); and the Housing Inventory Count, which gives HUD an understanding of how many emergency shelter or transitional housing beds there are specifically for the homeless in our county;

  • Educating the community and local media about local and national issues around homelessness;

  • Advocating for policy changes to help alleviate homelessness at the local, state and national levels; and

  • Planning and organizing special projects, events and outreaches that provide life-changing services to the homeless: monthly Direct Service Outreaches in Metro Bakersfield, and bi-monthly or quarterly outreaches in rural or unincorporated areas; Project Homeless Connect One-Day Resouce Fair; and the local 100,000 Homes Campaign to house the most vulnerable street homeless in the community.

For more information about the Kern County Homeless Collaborative, please contact the Homelessness Project Manager at Homeless@kernhomeless.org or (661) 834-2734.

 

 

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