New batch of state money given to help fight homelessness in Kern County
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) —
It's no secret that homelessness is an issue that has plagued Kern County for decades.
"The entire state of California has a disproportionally large homeless population due to many factors: the cost of living, substance abuse, mental health, down on your luck,” Bill Walker, the director of Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, said.
Now, county officials are trying to make a long-term dent in the growing problem.
Tuesday morning, Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services went before the Board of Supervisors to secure about $376,000 of state money designated for Kern County.
"These dollars are going to buy additional beds, they’re going to buy shelter, they're going to buy sober-living environment type of beds, vouchers,” said Walker.
The money will also be used to expand on existing programs throughout the county, including one which uses formerly homeless employees, called peer navigators, to help those currently living on the street.
"We are going to augment the REACH program and add five more staff, specifically peer navigator staff. And we should be able to get those individuals into the streets before the end of this calendar year,” Walker said.
Because at the end of the day, Walker said, it's important to remember that homelessness is an issue that affects us all.
"Each person who is homeless is a human being, and we're trying to reach into that humanity on both sides. We want the public to be protected and we want the homeless to have their lives back."