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Couch’s Corner: Navigation center progress in Delano helping other rural communities

One good thing leads to another. While we are anticipating a navigation center for the homeless in Delano to be opening soon, the progress we made in Delano is helping us get programs in other rural communities going as well. Progress in Arvin, Lamont, Taft, McFarland and even Wasco are the direct result of what we’ve been able to do in Delano and bode well for Kern County’s long-term approach to homelessness in the rural areas of Kern County.

Already much funding and additional services and beds have been added to Bakersfield with two new navigation centers and other actions to improve the homeless crisis there. Hopefully, this will translate to a situation that is visible to the naked eye soon there, but that’s another story.

In Delano, while we had hoped to open late last year, we have funding, an operator, a facility and a plan to improve the homeless situation by opening a navigation center there but ran into some obstacles making sure our location met all building standards for this type of facility. We are hopeful for an opening in Delano by late March or early April.

As a reminder, the Delano Navigation Center will be a location for the homeless of Delano and hopefully McFarland so that the homeless can get connected to mental health services, social services, case management and other important steps with the goal of getting them placed into housing at some point. A meal and a place to lay their head for a moment is also a part of the plan. This is all with the hope of getting these folks back into housing at some point. The Delano community has been tremendously supportive in bringing this plan to fruition and you can expect to hear more of this in the near future.

Officials and community members from Arvin, Lamont, Taft, McFarland and Wasco have been part of these discussions, which has led to developments in those communities that will improve their strategies in dealing with their homeless problem. The newly-elected mayor of Arvin, Olivia Trujillo, has been at the forefront of those efforts. With her commitment, the city of Arvin is fully committed to applying for the grants that might be available, finding locations for services, building a plan that will work for Arvin that will include Lamont, and bringing the Arvin and Lamont communities together for support.

Mayor Trujillo worked closely with Shari Rightmer from Taft in a collaborative effort that will bring Rightmer's good work from Taft to the Arvin community. Rightmer's Laborers of the Harvest program feeds Taft and now is being set up to feed Arvin as well. Rightmer makes a point of inspiring her homeless community to make their community better, not worse, so Rightmer's homeless volunteers work hard in Taft cleaning up, feeding the hungry, and doing other good works, which is creating a model that is helping tear down walls of resistance among Taft officials and can do the same thing in any community.

When the homeless of a community are working to make the community better, this is an important first step in getting the community to help them. The hope is these collaborations between Taft, Arvin and officials in Kern County can help Taft get needed funding to improve their programming, services and facilities.

At an Arvin Homeless Collaborative meeting, McFarland officials attended and are taking what they learned back to McFarland to discuss how that community might be able to piggyback onto Delano’s efforts rather than trying to duplicate those efforts. And in Wasco, where in early discussions with Wasco officials we have presented Delano’s, Arvin’s, and Taft’s successes, Wasco officials have suggested they are open to solutions that are consistent with the smaller scope of Wasco’s homeless problem.

So as you can see, one good thing does lead to another, and by working together, we are finding ways to improve each community’s homeless problem. If you want to be part of that solution, let us know. If you have any questions about this or any District 4 issue, feel free to call us at 66-868-3680 or email us at district4@kerncounty.com. Have a safe week.

David Couch represents Kern County’s 4th District.