About 50,000 people that call Kern County home, Wounded Heroes Fund’s Wendy Porter points out, signed the dotted line to secure our way of life. Despite a recent study from the Lendingtree finding California to be the worst state for Veterans to live in, grassroots organizations in Kern County are working toward changing that.
“I know things have been in turmoil for the past two years, but for the most part we do not have war on our land," Porter said. “We have these men and women who are overseas and they’re protecting us. They’re helping us keep our way of life. So we owe them a lot.”
They’ve fought for our land of the free, but they may be fighting other battles on the homefront, and which state they choose to call home impacts that. Porter said the pandemic hasn't helped.
“When we went into lock down a lot of people had to work from home or were laid off,” Porter said.
According to that recent study, California ranked the worst state in the country for veterans to live in. These findings are based on different metrics: High housing costs for one, the study found that veterans spend 40 percent of their income on housing alone, compared to the lowest, 19 percent in West Virginia.
Unemployment rate is another factor, in California for veterans the rate at 9 percent compared to the lowest at 3.3 percent in South Dakota.
“We do have a computer lab here and I know over the past few months there’s been quite a few people coming in as veterans, to get their resumes together, get them printed out and sent off and stuff, So we’ve seen an increase in that,” Porter said.
Kern County isn’t much better according to Redfin, home prices are up 17 percent from this time last year in Kern County.
As 23ABC previously reported unemployment overall is worse here too, Kern County ranking 56 out of California’s 58 counties in employment ratings.
Even with these conditions, Porter grassroots organizations like the wounded heroes fund make sure that Kern County veterans are taken care of, the wounded heroes fund offering financial grants to help with rental payments if veterans are impacted by the pandemic.
“We have a financial counselor come in once a month,” Porter said. "He’s here all day, and people can set up meeting times with him. We also have somebody from the Veteran Services Office that comes two to three times a month that will help get them started either one, on their benefits if they’re not receiving any, and if they are [receiving them], see if they can increase their benefit level.”
Even if they don’t have the exact resources a veteran needs, Porter said the Wounded Heroes Fund is a part of the Kern County Veterans' Collaborative and can point them in the right direction.
“What’s unique to Kern County is we have a lot of these services that are in other areas, but we work together,” Porter said “We, the different organizations, don’t look at each other as competition.”