BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Bakersfield city school officials are underlining the services that they offer to homeless students amid these tough times. 23ABC’s Austin Westfall has the story of a local family who was left out on the street, and how they were helped.
The family that 23ABC spoke to Friday says they used to live at the Residence Hotel in Bakersfield. But officials said they were removed because the complex was sold to the Housing Authority of the County of Kern. The Housing Authority is purchasing the hotel, telling 23ABC that they are making significant improvements to the property and management of the site to better the living environment for residents.
"All of the residents at the Residences Hotel were notified of the need to relocate due to emergency repairs required at the site. No one who is a resident there is being put out on the street due to the emergency relocation. They are being placed in motels while the emergency repairs are made. Our staff were at the site all day and will be out this weekend helping residents with the relocation," said Stephen Pelz, the Executive Director of the Housing Authority, in an email to 23ABC.
The Housing Authority and the Bakersfield City School District stepped in to help, and they said if someone finds themselves in a similar situation, they can get help too.
Anthony Freeman and his 7-year-old son were staying at the Residence Hotel on Union Avenue until they and many other residents said they had to relocate after the hotel was sold to the Housing Authority. That meant no longer having a home, but also not having any place to go to school as many of the kids living there were remote learning. Some kids were seen working on laptops outside the hotel Friday afternoon.
“This situation, it happened so fast. It shouldn’t have happened. So we need a little more resources, a little more help,” said Freeman.
Pelz told 23ABC that Freeman "is not a resident but is a friend of a resident who is trying to obtain benefits he is not eligible for."
Dr. Tim Fulenwider, the executive director of instructional support services at the Bakersfield City School District, said five percent of students at the district are homeless. However, he said there are resources that students and families can use if they find themselves in situations where they have to deal with homelessness, including getting help from places like the Kern Housing Authority or the Bakersfield Homeless Center.
“Our families reached out for help, and so that’s when we were like 'yes let’s help you,'” said Fulenwider. “Today we were problem-solving. How we were going to help move families or assist them that way.”
Social workers from BCSD and the Kern Housing Authority helped the displaced residents work out where they could go next. That help could be provided because families alerted the district about the problem ahead of time.
The district said if you need help, ask for it because a school social worker can be of service in many ways.
“Ensure that everyone gets enrolled in school properly, has all the materials they need, and also maintain that connection if families need to move around because that’s the nature of being homeless,” added Fulenwider.
The district was unable to tell 23ABC exactly what kind of help was provided for the affected families at the Residence Hotel.