BAKERSFIELD - The Christmas holiday is less than a week away and it’s becoming a busy time for organizations working directly with the homeless in our community. Leaders with those groups say services for less fortunate people don’t just happen once a year.
Heather Goodman looks for help anywhere she can.
“Things are kind of shaky right now I guess you can say, but right now I’m kind of hanging in there,” he said.
Goodman, who is the mother of two, is unemployed. Every month, she visits “Riverview Assembly of God,” which is part of the Homeless Collaborative and until recently she has been coming once a week.
“The Christmas times have been hard and I was just maybe trying to get some extra Christmas food and get some prayer and get some church going,” she said.
Goodman is not alone. Service leaders say the face of the homeless is changing hey say there’s more families with children and the elderly who struggle just to make ends meet.
Leaders with the collaborative say 1/5 of people who visit Riverview are homeless, often times camping out at local parks just like this one. The rest of the visitors are at high risk of being homeless due to unemployment.
“Homelessness and hunger don’t just happen around the holidays. They can affect people anytime of the year because of job lost, because of an eviction, because people are release from jail and are trying to get their act together again and reincorporating back into the community so our service happen year around,” said Louis Medina with the Kern County United Way.
Pastor Terry Murtagh provides a place where the homeless can get a warm meal and groceries for the month. He says the small amount of food they provide does go a long way.
“It feels great to be able to do a little bit. We’re not able to meet all of the needs of all of the people in the community, but each group can do a little bit, it makes a difference,” said Murtagh.
The Homeless Collaborative also provides people a link to services that may not necessarily be aware is available around the community.
“It affects people and we just don’t know who’s going to be next. Most of the time they are unaware of the services or resources in our community so, that’s what we try to do. We direct services where we actually complete applications. We get them connected to services, we follow through with that and hopefully we can get them some housing,” said Imelda Ceja-Butkiewicz with the public health department.