BAKERSFIELD,Calif. — The second annual California Landlord's Summit kicked off today at 8 a.m. and featured a free event with landlords, property owners, and homeless service providers in helping finding ways to end homelessness in Kern County.
One Bakersfield resident, 23-year-old Haley Bleakley, was on and off homeless when she was just 14-years-old. She soon found herself in and out of foster homes until she turned 18.
“I ended up on the streets and homeless because I didn’t have a support system like many do” said Bleakley.
Bleakley discovered her support system through the Kern County Dream Center that focuses on homeless youth.
“Some people are homeless not because of their own faults, but because of the cards that life dealt them and if someone reaches out to you and is constantly getting denied [housing] they can lose hope,” Bleakley said.
Now, Bleakley has become a voice against the constant problem she sees in Bakersfield.
“I hope to speak out so we can get more landlords to rent to homeless in Kern county,” Bleakley said.
The Dream Center is one of the dozens of organizations that have come together for the 2019 California Landlord Summit on Homelessness held at the Marriott Convention Center here in Bakersfield.
Ian Sharples, an organizer for the summit, says that the last year's event asked landlords in attendance to pledge 50 units towards the homelessness population and were able to lock in 60. In 2019, they are hoping to get over that number.
“We just want to help house people, make the community safer, healthier, get people off the streets and that’s good for business,” said Sharples. “It’s good for the landlords and good for the community being helped.”
The summit included over 400 volunteers, 20 speakers and two panels and room full of potential landlords.
“What I have to say to our homeless individuals is that don’t give up hope,” Sharples said. “We are out here trying to work and get everyone housing and it might take a while, but we will eventually end homelessness in California.”
The second annual summit especially focused on the homeless youth like Bleakley, who are said to be an at-risk group in the community.
“If these people can at least think about giving the homelessness a chance and letting them get somewhere to stay and focus on their lives it would be the best thing for this community,” Bleakley added.