While most people on the street don’t have the option to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic, they can turn to one of the few places in Bakersfield still working to aid their needs.

On a normal day, St. Vincent de Paul Society serves 250 to 350 homeless individuals per day, providing a hot meal, a shower or a place to stay for those on the street. But with the nationwide emergency in place, the homeless facility was forced to shut its doors.

Board Chairwoman Deborah Leary said she and her board of directors made a decision to continue serving the homeless community upon shutting their doors.

“That day Gov. Newsom sent out that notice that nonessential businesses would close, we closed our thrift store and closed the center,” said Leary. “When we closed the store, that meant no revenue coming in to support the center and the people we support — the homeless.”

Because the homeless facility is a voluntary organization, it receives no federal, state or local agency funds. Leary said all of their funding comes from their thrift store located on Baker Street and their annual fall fundraiser. With no income from the thrift store, Leary felt worried about the future of the homeless community and the need of resources.

With luck on their side, the Bakersfield community responded and provided donations to keep St. Vincent de Paul’s operation afloat.

“People showed up in their cars loaded with food; they were generous with things we needed,” she said. “I can’t thank the community enough for the support.”

Leary also said that she shows up every day at St. Vincent de Paul’s facility, despite the spread of coronavirus in the county.

“God is taking care of me and I want to be there to support my volunteers and staff workers. We follow all the procedures. They’re dedicated to the mission. We’re hanging in there together as a family,” she said.

Leary wants the community to have hope going through this pandemic.

“We’re still here. Things are going to get better. We’re going to get through this. We’ll resume to our normal lives but we’ve got to have hope and adhere to regulations that the government is asking us to — stay home and practice social distancing,” Leary said.

Leary mentions that St. Vincent de Paul still needs help and resources to continue its mission to serve, feed and assist the homeless in Bakersfield. For more information, visit www.svdpbakersfield.org. 

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