BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The Bakersfield Homeless Center’s mission is to help individuals and families get back on their feet and in a home but what if on top of that you're worried about putting gifts under the Christmas tree? That is why the Adopt a Family program was created.
“These families are really in need of some of the basic items. They are still engaging in how to pay bills that their utility is met. Making sure that their children are going to school and all of the things we take for granted,” explained Lauren Skidmore, CEO of the Bakersfield Homeless Center.
There are 200 Kern County families who will be celebrating the holidays for the first time off the streets and in their new home, and while that's a blessing there are still some things families couldn't pick up this year.
23ABC IN-DEPTH: What are the homeless population numbers across Kern County?
- The latest numbers suggest there are over 2,100 homeless individuals in Kern County.
- Of that number, more than 1,600 are adults, 174 are adults with children, and 343 are children alone.
- In addition, 569 homeless people in Kern are sheltered, but almost 1,600 are not.
- Lastly, 39-percent of homeless adults in the county suffer from substance use disorder and 36-percent from a serious mental illness.
- Veterans make up 2-percent of Kern's homeless population.
Families in the Bakersfield Homeless Center aftercare program create their Christmas list that is posted on the Adopt a Family website where residents can choose to donate any or all items on their wish list. You can stay an anonymous Santa, or you can arrange to meet the family in person.
“Garces High School, for example, they adopt almost twenty families just from their school alone. They get students teachers and staff all involved,“ said Skidmore. “Most of the time when we show our children a different form of society, they will give back throughout their lives and I think it's really important to engage young children any age children.”
Not to mention the impact these gifts have on the aftercare families and their children.
“We got word that once her daughter came home, she was crying. It was very emotional. She saw a tree in her living room and saw presents under that tree something she had been missing out on for many years.”
This year Skidmore had an exciting announcement: “We have all of our families adopted for the 2021 year. We are so grateful because we are filling up their homes with gifts there’s been lots of support.”