BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Many shelters and centers in the Bakersfield area are working towards finding permanent housing for those who had previously been out on the streets, but the pandemic has made that goal more difficult, leaving many people and families in limbo. 23ABC's Bayne Froney explains why this year it has been hard to find housing.
While organizations like the Bakersfield Homeless Center provide many resources to the homeless, their main goal is to find them permanent housing. But not only is there a lack of housing availability due to the pandemic but there is also a stigma that goes with housing homeless individuals making it hard to place them.
The Bakersfield Homeless Center offers lots of services to help families facing homelessness, including providing shelter, job development services as well as child care. Last year the Center was able to place 1,450 people into a permanent home. But 2020 hasn’t been as successful according to Louis Gill.
“This is slow right now because it is very difficult to place during the pandemic,” said Louis Gill, CEO Bakersfield Homeless Center. “It is very very tight, it is very hard to find rental units in the market right now and so we just aren’t getting the availability for people. There is also an eviction moratorium right now so even those units that would naturally through the market come up because people are getting moved out those aren’t even becoming available right now.”
Not only is there a lack of housing availability due to the pandemic, but it’s harder for individuals who were recently homeless to get approved for a home.
“Right now in this market vacancy rights are less than 2% for affordable housing, so our folks with blemished records are competing with the middle class, working folks who are just trying to find an apartment as well,” Gill added.
To help with that issue, the Center utilizes its staff and appoints them as housing navigators to help negotiate with landlords so that the clients from the Center can gain housing. But even that can be challenging at times.
Gill adds, “There is a prejudice about homeless individuals, ‘I don’t want those folks around,’ and I love the fact that our navigators, some of them used to be clients, and so they say ‘who you’re going to be renting to is me.’”
Despite those difficulties, the Center has still been able to house several families this year, including Amanda who officially moved into her new home on Wednesday.
“There are a lot of people struggling right now, life is really hard right now, we should be helping our neighbor,” said Gill.
The Bakersfield Homeless Center is accepting volunteers as well as donations this holiday season.