BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The homeless and affordable housing crisis go hand in hand, which is why the staff at the M Street Navigation Center are adjusting to help get as many homeless individuals housed.
More than 1,200 people have come through M Street Navigation Center at one of their lowest points in life, but over the course of these two years, many have been able to become independent and again contribute to this community. However, the road has not been easy.
Jonathan Flores has been working at the navigation center since the start and says their biggest goal is also their biggest challenge.
"We take people from all walks of life. To house as many clients as possible and move them into transitional housing, and with that being said there has to be some sort of affordable housing."
Of the 1,200 people that have come through the center, about 133 have gotten permanent housing. Aside from the lack of affordable housing making placement difficult, they are starting to see some of the folks that did move into permanent housing get evicted.
Laurie Hughey is the program administrator for the center and explains it’s all about adapting to new challenges, which is why they have started offering financial and relationship courses. They hope providing these courses will make that difference in successfully transitioning to independence.
"So I would like to get into case management, and once they get placed in the housing, let's follow up and see how they are doing before something else happens and they end up homeless again."
But as they continue to add to their approach, they also notice the need for more mental health and medical staff.
"We do get individuals that are diabetic and they require insulin, low sugar and life can be threatening, and so if we have medical staff that are readily available that can prevent a lot of 911 calls," explained Keith Jackson, program services supervisor at the M Street Navigation Center.
Although the job continues and comes with a lot of challenges, they say it is also very rewarding.
"Our clients would become like a family to me because I only start with a name and date of birth and then they become family," continued Jackson. "So seeing them off, seeing them go into permanent housing is very exciting."
Those directly working with the homeless population understand them at a level that most of us on the outside simply cannot. The staff at the center say getting people to accept services is not as easy as one might think. For some, it is about pride, and not wanting to be a burden. Others don’t want to submit to shelters' strict rules.
"So we are going to set up tents. It is going to be like a tent city right there on the property for those individuals that are resistant to go into the shelter. They will be allowed to camp there on-site. We will provide them with meals. There will be security. We will have staff showers."
Hughey explains they will also have designated areas for those who live out of their cars to stay in a safe area overnight. She says the idea is to provide a safe space and make contact to eventually transition to a shelter and then permanent housing.
The plan is to have the Safe Camping and Safe Parking projects open on June 6th.