BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Since the start of the pandemic the lives of many people have been flipped upside down, often forced to choose between putting food on the table and paying rent.
Despite progress in fighting COVID-19, those hardships are still ongoing for some. The need is even greater in many rural areas.
That is why City Serve is working with the Housing Authority of Kern to visit the areas outside metro Bakersfield and host rental assistance workshops.
In March, when many workplaces shut down and people needed help getting groceries, they turned a room into a food distribution center. Now more than a year later, it is serving as a place for rental assistance for many in these communities who have not been able to catch a break from COVID.
“I have a lot of economic problems since COVID hit. I am disabled, I was working but because of covid, I was unable to work, I also had COVID for two weeks,” said Jose Ayala Zamora.
At 70 years old, Mr. Jose Zamora is the sole breadwinner in his family. Him and his wife are raising their grandchild and he also takes care of his wife who is disabled.
For years he worked for a small trucking company but was let go when things started to slow down due to COVID. He is now two months behind on rent and his old job sold the truck he used to drive.
With no job to return to and piling bills, he came here looking for help.
“We are scared but we have to figure a way to move forward,” said Zamora.
His story is not unique. AJ Ledoux with City Serve has been helping people with rental assistance for months and says the story repeats itself in all parts of the state.
“There are some who have been able to pay here and there and are not quite as behind. And there are some who have not been able to pay since April so it is a huge variance of what it can be. But the beauty of this program is that as long as the tenant is approved it does not matter how far behind you are,” said Ledoux.
He notes landlords are not allowed to evict the tenant based on not paying rent due to financial hardship until the landlord has applied for assistance. And adds that is why applications from both landlords and tenants continue to roll in.
“People who reside in the county of Kern, we have distributed a little over the 14 million dollars in direct payments to almost 22 hundred households. So those are people who live outside the city limits,” said Heather Kimmel, Assistant Executive Director of the Housing Authority of the County of Kern.
Health Kimel, the Assistant Executive Director at the Housing Authority of the County of Kern, adds there is definitely a need in these rural areas and is happy the partnership with city serve is helping them reach these communities.
The program ran into delay issues earlier due to the many incomplete applications they were receiving, but since the help of several organizations started, they have seen wait times to process applications lower by almost two weeks.
As Pastor Steve Seymour at the Jesus Saves International Church where the event was held said, any help these people can get is monumental.
“We live in a town where we have a lot of people who work seasonal jobs, and things like that, and therefore they don’t have the necessary items they need, or even the food that they need,” said Seymour.
City Serve will continue to host rental assistance events in various parts of the county throughout the month of December. On Monday, they will be in Wasco starting at 10 a.m.