The Mission:

To put an end to homelessness in Kern County through collaborative planning and action.

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For information: Homelessness Resources Administrative Assistant Jessica M. Janssen (661) 834-1580 or Jessica.F@uwkern.org. 

 


Homeless Collaborative invites census workers

12/23/2014
Bakersfield CA - Kern County Homeless Collaborative invites 250 volunteers to help conduct a countywide Homelessness Census during a 24-hour period January 22 through 23, 2015.
 
With the goal of achieving the Collaborative’s mission “to end homelessness in Kern County”, Heather Kimmel, the Collaborative’s Census Committee Chair said “This annual count helps member agencies of the Kern County Homeless Collaborative, the County of Kern and City of Bakersfield to strategically address the housing and service needs of individuals and families who are homeless or at risk for homelessness.”  Kimmel, who is also executive director of California Veterans Assistance Foundation, added “The process helps to ensure annual funding to our community in the amount of $3 to $5 million dollars that provides crucial housing and supportive services for this vulnerable population, benefiting the community as a whole.”
All volunteer surveyors will be expected to complete a short volunteer profile online at www.kernhomeless.org and participate in a two to three hour training conducted by the Collaborative during the week of January 12. The training will be provided at different time slots for convenience and special training sessions will be provided outside of Bakersfield.
 
Volunteers (18 and older) will be trained to work through a series of questions helping the Collaborative identify trends and circumstances. Questions include a variety of topics such as the lengths of time people have been homeless, if they’ve ever been diagnosed with valley fever, or if they have been a victim of domestic violence, to name a few. Homeless individuals surveyed will receive hygiene packets that include: new socks, toiletries such as razors, deodorant, soap and shampoo, a snack, and other items; and be provided with referrals for services if needed – and a “stat team” will be on call to address immediate crisis situations.
 
In an effort to make the count as accurate as possible, on Thursday, January 22, survey teams will interview temporary residents at shelters, safe havens, and transitional housing locations. On Friday, January 23, survey teams of three or four will span out throughout Kern, all day long to count homeless who sleep outdoors, in parks, alleys, by the river, under bridges, etc. or in places not meant for human habitation--cars, abandoned buildings, garages or other structures without electricity or running water, etc.
 
“Counting the homeless in an 8,000-square-mile area with dozens of separate communities presents a unique logistical challenge,” says Kimmel. “We are particularly interested in recruiting team leaders and surveyors from rural areas who are familiar with the homeless challenges in their respective communities.”
 
The process of surveying helps to identify local trends among the homeless population such as families with children, unaccompanied youth, the chronically homeless, and veterans; and helps identify the magnitude of challenges such as drug use or mental/physical health issues.
 
“The Homelessness Census can be a truly educational, motivating experience for all involved,” said Christine Lollar, Homelessness Project Manager for United Way of Kern County, the administrator and fiscal agent for the Collaborative. “Experiencing homelessness first hand is a true awakening for many as they meet those facing life on the streets or in shelters”.
 
The Census for Kern, conducted since 2007, will include several “firsts” for the Collaborative. The effort will incorporate an effort driven by UC Berkeley called “We Count!” which strives to capture the scope of homeless youth in our community. In partnership with Berkeley, the Kern High School District and the Kern County Network for Children, the 2015 Census will seek to identify the magnitude of unaccompanied youth homelessness in Kern. This component is being required by HUD in 2015 reporting for the first time in history as a result of the growing trend of youth homelessness across the nation.
 
Secondly, Kern County has been selected as one of 68 US communities to participate in ‘Zero: 2016’, a two year national campaign to end veteran and chronic homelessness. The effort begins January 1, to intensively end veteran homelessness by December 2015 and chronic homelessness by December 2016.
 
A report was published February 14, 2014 and can be found on the KCHC website, www.KernHomeless.org, indicating a local 30 percent decrease in veteran homelessness and a dramatic 40 percent decrease in people experiencing chronic homelessness since the reaching the highest growth in 2012. Across the US nearly 55% of Census counts reported a decrease.
 
“As we find ways to house specific vulnerable populations, others are increasing, such as growing youth populations and families and children are the fastest growing homeless population,” said Lollar. “It’s three steps forward and two back but we must keep moving forward. Everyone deserves basic necessities, a roof over their head, food and running water, and health care,” she stated.
 
Homelessness service providers indicate that 2015 is a pivotal year. While the count is not all inclusive of the homelessness ‘picture’, it has historically been a gauge for work efforts. Refining the survey processes and becoming more efficient at gauging homelessness, the Collaborative recognizes the Census does not quantify homelessness efforts – or even success – on its own. But rather it is just one component of a full homelessness “puzzle”.
 
According to Ann Marie Oliva, Director of the US Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs, the Point in Time Count (a report compiled from information gathered during the Census) “is not a statement that “we have won the fight against homelessness”.   She emphasized that in addition to the Census, communities must enumerate individuals who may meet the definition of homelessness in other categories together with Housing Inventory Counts, Urban Development and Department of Education data, along with the US Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey (which captures doubled up households and worst-case housing needs) and other relevant data sets to measure progress and performance and all necessary pieces to understand the complexities of homelessness.
 
For more information about the Census contact United Way of Kern County's Homelessness Project Manager at 661 834 2734 or Christine.L@UWKern.org

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