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Bakersfield to get $4M to combat homelessness, improve mental health services

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KERN COUNTY HOMELESS COLLABORATIVE FACES OF HOMELESSNESS FACEBOOK PAGE

The city of Bakersfield received nearly $4 million in state funding to help uplift vulnerable residents out of homelessness, council members announced during a Thursday press conference.

The money will pay for hundreds of shelter beds across the city with wraparound services, including treatment for mental health issues, substance abuse and other contributors to homelessness.

Councilman Andrae Gonzales says such a holistic approach is key.

“We know this is much more than a homelessness crisis,” he said. “This is a substance abuse crisis, [and] an issue related to affordable housing.”

Tabitha Owens lived on and off the streets for six years before she found a stable home at Milestone, a former motel that now serves as one of Bakersfield’s shelters.

At Milestone, Owens says she was able to achieve sobriety, find a job and eventually buy a car.

“If it wasn’t for the housing, I know I would be dead or drunk on a street somewhere,” she said.

The new state grants will expand programs such as Milestone, while bringing psychiatrists and other direly needed mental health services to the shelters. The California Homeless, Housing, Assistance and Prevention fund also brings additional resources for homeless youth and rural communities.

There are up to 8,000 people experiencing homelessness across Kern County with only 3,000 beds for them, a number that Gonzales says the city is working to improve each year.

Joshua Yeager is a Report For America corps reporter covering Kern County for KVPR.
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