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Seniors facing eviction in Kern County have options for help

Director of Kern Aging and Adult Services Jeremy Oliver says his agency can provide both immediate help and long-term solutions for Kern seniors who find themselves facing eviction.
donnie williams
Posted at 9:17 PM, Jun 20, 2023

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Donnie Williams spent his entire life in Bakersfield. For the last 30 years, he's lived in a trailer on the east side until last week, when he was evicted.

Like so many in his situation, he had no clue where to turn for help.

"Who would even think about..?" Williams ruminated. "Thank you, Lord, for letting me wake up and make it through another day, but now I've got to wake up and go through this ordeal."

Williams, born in 1952, isn't looking for much after 70 years of experience.

"I just want to be left alone, be able to live the rest of my life in peace," said Williams.

But after living in the same trailer on the same property for 3 decades, Donnie woke up one morning to an eviction notice.

According to the unlawful detainer complaint against Williams, he was in violation of his lease due to the amount of trash, debris, and waste on the property. The complaint gave him 3 days to cure the violation.

Donnie says he tried.

"If you look on the outside of my fence, I have it cleaned up. Compared to what it was and where it is now, it's a 90 percent improvement," said Williams.

But his effort wasn't good enough for the landlord, and at the time Williams didn't know what other options he had.

"If they put me on the street, I'll die."

Jose Gurrola with Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance says the time for a tenant to seek help is as soon as they recieve an eviction notice.

"The important thing is that if they're served with a summons or a complaint for eviction, they have very little time to respond, usually 5 days, and so at that point, they should reach out to an attorney," said Gurrola.

According to Gurrola, the sooner the better, because if a tenant can move quickly enough, oftentimes the attorney can prevent the detainer from even getting to the eviciton stage.

Once the full eviction is served, the tenant has to relocate even if they plan to fight the eviction, but according to Kern County Aging and Adult Services Director Jeremy Oliver, there are still options for older and disabled tenants.

"If they are older, they have some kind of disability, they may not be able to do what the notice tells them to do, there's a potential for what's called a 'reasonable accommodation.' That may be one avenue," said Oliver. "It's highly individualistic and highly specific."

Oliver says when they get a call from a senior resident facing eviction, they'll assess what the individual needs, connect them to programs like GBLA, the Home Safe program, or In-Home Supportive Services.

"We've helped people transition from those spots, find them a place to stay, and then try to help them find longer solutions to that problem," said Oliver.

Even though Williams had to relocate, he's grateful he's found help.

"I'm going to accept the help He gives me, and I'm going to do the best I can," said Williams. "Like I said, I would like to stay here, but if that's no longer the prophecy, then I must go somewhere else."

IN-DEPTH: RESOURCES FOR VULNERABLE TENANTS

Kern County resources for vulnerable people facing eviction

Donnie Williams' story is just one of many, and there are a number of programs that can help intervene in situations like his.

Home Safe, a program of the California Department of Social Services, issues grants to adult protective service programs throughout the state. The program addresses clients who are 60 years or older, or are dependent adults with a mental or physical disability.

In Kern County, the Home Safe program has assisted hundreds of peple over the years, especially through the pandemic. In 2021, the program helped 166 Kern County clients. That number shot up to 405 in 2022, and so far this year, the program has helped 209 people.

Another available program is In-Home Supportive Services. This program will help pay for services provided to residents so they can safely stay in their own homes. Services can include housecleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, even personal hygiene tasks.

To qualify, applicants must be 65 years or over, or be disabled or blind, ad meet with a social worker to determine eligibility.

Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance also has multiple programs for lower-income individuals to confront evictions, including the Mobile Home Advocacy Program, the Sergeant Shriver Housing Project, and the Landlord/Tenant Assistance Center.

According to Kassie Mulllican with GBLA, no matter what the problem is, they can find the correct services.

"You then become connected to all of our programs and services. We can help provide referrals to other social services, like Aging and Adult Services, Adult Protective Services, CAP-K, Housing Authority," said Mullican. "There's a whole lot we can do."