BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Homeless veterans received some extra support Thursday from their Kern County community.
Every year the veteran stand down event aims to put homeless veterans in contact with health and career services to help lift them up in any way that is beneficial to them. 23ABC News spoke to local veterans about what it means to them each year and how the resources are making a difference in their life.
For the last 20 years the California Veterans Assistance Foundation along with Kern County non-profits and for-profit corporations have teamed up to ensure all local veterans have access to the essentials. "It's going to help me even like with the clothing to blankets, bedding, hygiene, first aid," local veteran Mark Murillo said.
More than 527 veterans including Murillo gain access to resources from the event each year, that are not always readily accessible when times get hard after their time of service, "Some things you can't just have right away that you can get to or whatever but the services, the courts anything they're here. From the county to even if need of food assistance you know," Murillo said.
103 service providers registered for the event to help provide clothing, food, haircuts and more for veterans. Showing veterans that the support they may need is right in their backyard,"Showers, clothing we have an organization that's helping with bicycles if they have transportation needs. We have housing providers out here from transitional housing, emergency shelter, all the way to permanent support of housing. So if there is a need that a veteran has there is a provider here," Assistant Director of the Housing Authority County of Kern Heather Kimmel said.
Kimmel along with her community partners use events like this to help track down the veterans who are homeless or struggling to keep a roof over their head, "Whether it’s an outreach worker on the streets who's engaged with them or a service providers door that they've walked to, that we all as a community know who they are. We're talking about them by name and we are actively trying to develop a housing plan with them," Kimmel said.
A strategy that has helped track down 83 homeless veterans in Kern County thus far, with that number expected to grow after Thursday. However, the event continues to be a platform for support and veteran comradery, "Walking around seeing all of the different vets and vendors they have to offer, it's pretty cool," U.S. Navy Veteran Tracy Anderson said.
Organizers said that Thursday they had a record breaking number of providers and veterans who attended the event. They hope that by impacting the veteran sector of homeless people first, that they can eventually move towards using the same strategies to help make an even greater impact on the homeless crisis in Kern County.