BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Since December, despite their facilities being closed, the Dream Center of Kern County has helped more than 300 Kern County youth with a wide range of services. Now, after being closed due to the pandemic, they’re re-opening their doors on Monday.
Just because something is a basic human need, doesn’t mean it’s a guarantee.
22-year-old Pete Riveas told 23ABC that he came to the Dream Center five years ago, after being at risk of and then experiencing homelessness, he says fairly quickly they helped him get back on his feet.
“A lot of people can tell you, I used to walk around under a blanket, I used to wear a blanket, and now I have this whole life, with my child and car,” Pete Riveas, Dream Center youth.
Five years ago life was much different for Pete Riveas. He has been coming to the Dream Center of Kern County since he was 17 as the center helped him get food stamps, social security and even his driver’s license. Since then things have turned around.
“Everybody here is super friendly. They really care about where you go. They really care about, not necessarily how you live your life, but how you can better your life,” said Riveas.
Now supporting his 16-month-old son, the 22-year-old still comes to the center every week, utilizing their job services so he can transition from his temporary job to starting a career.
“They can come get the help that they need, whatever they need, whether it’s jobs, school housing, basic items. As a support system, we’re here for them," said Jayme Stuart, child and family services coordinator, the Kern County Dream Center.
Before COVID, the Dream Center’s Child and Family Services Coordinator, Jayme Stuart says, they were seeing as many as 40 youths up to the age of 25, a day.
While closed, the need didn’t go away, Stuart said the center helping more than 300 youth just since December with various needs including providing food, clothing, household items and their usual services, from a distance.
She says some struggles youth have faced include losing their jobs and finding stable housing during the pandemic.
“If you don’t have a phone, if you don’t have a computer, you don’t have a way to connect. And during COVID, we’ve turned into a virtual community, so our youth have been left out on that since a lot of them are technology challenged,” said Stuart.
Stuart and Riveas are looking forward to offering indoor services like their computer lab, internet, showers, laundry, phone and copier once again, come Monday.
“It’s been kind of lonely without everybody being here. Everyone being here makes the place more lively,” said Stuart.
Other services like cooking classes may have to wait until restrictions in the county loosen more.
“We’re following the same rules that the state has set for classrooms so we will be a very safe environment,” said Stuart.
The Dream Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The Dream Center says the community has been extremely helpful in donating some of the aforementioned necessity items throughout the pandemic and is encouraging them to continue doing so.
The center tells us a lot of these youth have children that need necessary items like diapers and baby wipes, those items are accepted donations too.