The Mission:

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

In This Section

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

 


Homeless Youth in Kern, and What You Need to Know

11/21/2016

Groovestock Youth EventWhat is the current situation with homeless youth in Kern County?

  • We consider youth a silent epidemic – one of two populations that fall through the gaps when they were not part of the foster care system.

  • 1 in every 5 homeless youth int he US live in California.

  • They are stealthy… they stay under the radar. Those under 18 don’t want to be detected by CPS.

  • They often do not frequent places other homeless do – e.g. they sleep on rooftops vs underpasses, construction yards… very strategic. During last year’s Homelessness count we found a group living in trees.

  • They don’t have life experiences of an older person, making them more likely to take risks and they are high targets for human and drug traffickers.

What are some things homeless advocates are seeing in Kern?

  • We often come across generational homelessness but most recently we met an 18 year old mother who had never had a place to call home in her entire life.

  • We are working with two teen sisters whose mother lives on the riverbed. Never having been in the foster care system, they couch surf. We met them staying with a heroin addict *who had a daughter they went to school with) in deplorable conditions in order to remain off the streets.

  • One young man had a job, but couldn’t get from The Mission to his job by 6am and was starving. He would not compromise his employment in order to stay in a shelter. We were able to connect him with a local church (from a faith base survey we did) who provided him food until he could save enough money for an apt.

Why do youth become homeless in the first place?

  • Problems within the home is the main reason for youth homelessness (14-24). Often acceptance of relationship or religious preference causes those rifts or separations.

  • Sometimes youth leave their homes because they don’t want to follow rules. However,  we have spoken with many adults who were homeless as youth and fell into crime or drugs or worse – and they all say "if you don’t love your kids someone on the streets will and they do not have their best interest at heart. Please don't give up on them."

Often people focus on the little ones during the holidays, how can people help these young people?

  • We really need groups, places of worship, rotaries to hold theme drives e.g. Jeans for Teens, Soup for Youth, etc. to have us come out for a presentation and find the best fit for your group or ministry. We have a whole list of things that can stir the passion of your organization, from small projects to larger undertakings.

  • United Way’s ReGIVE Project is putting a whole new meaning on REGIFTING… we furnish homes for homeless individuals and families through the donated new or gently used household items from forks to furniture to help all types of homeless households when they get into housing.

  • The money from the Groovestock event will be used for blankets and deposits, bus passes, emergency hotels for youth on the weekends, things like that for youth where we don’t have a funding source for. Kern County has very little youth focused efforts for these youth.

The January 2016 Homeless Collaborative’s Point in Time Count provided a 24-hour snapshot of Kern’s homeless population showing 87 unaccompanied youth 18 to 24, a 71% increase over 2015. Other youth information gleaned in the PIT Count included:

  • There was a 95% increase in those sleeping outdoors.

  • 14% were homeless due to domestic violence.

  • 21% were homeless before coming to Kern.

  • 43% were arrested before age 18.

  • 18% had been arrested for substance abuse; and 46% youth were receiving substance abuse treatment.

What is happening already to help homeless youth?

  • The Kern County Homeless Collaborative is learning from the things we did right with other homeless subpopulations.

  • Bakersfield College, Kern County Superintendent of Schools and the Kern High School District are partners in the work.

  • A strategic homeless youth working group through the Kern County Homeless Collaborative is strategizing and building awareness – agencies are asked to be involved if they serve homeless youth.

  • Agencies do have ways they are serving youth and we have an inventory of what those services are. We can provide the inventory to agencies who serve youth and need ways to engage them or refer families. An example is Bakersfield Homeless Center’s Youth After School Program which provides added support for the unique needs homeless youth have.

  • We are training high school onsite staff to educate them about resources available.

For more information contact the United Way and Kern County Homeless Collaborative's Director of Homelessness Resources Christine Lollar, Christine.L@UWKern.org or 661 834 2734.

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