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COUCH'S CORNER: Meeting shows how far we've come in combating homelessness

On July 29, the Delano Homeless Collaborative met to discuss the opening of the new Delano Navigation Center and other matters related to homelessness in their community. It was an important meeting, as it showed just how far we’ve come in terms of dealing with the homeless problem in Delano but also how far we’ve come in terms of getting people to work collaboratively toward managing the problem.

The facility opened July 6. Flood Ministries is the operator of this program, and they also hosted the collaborative meeting this past week. The Navigation Center provides meals, laundry services, showers, and information, counseling and support for those choosing to participate in the program. Flood also provides transportation to minimize foot traffic. Finally, Flood makes sure everyone who desires can be entered into an information system where they can get connected to services and one day, hopefully, housing.

Jim Wheeler, executive director of Flood, reported that in the first few weeks, 51 unique individuals have come to the facility, 20 of which were connected to countywide collaborative services, and 36 people received showers, 140 meals were served and 20 loads of laundry done. All got a break from the heat and a chance to reconnect with people in a humane environment and to begin to believe that help had arrived. This is the beginning of hope for those who may have given up. There were no incidents or problems associated with the opening or with the first month of operation.

The meeting room, at the Delano Association of the Developmentally Disabled office at 612 Main Street, was full of concerned citizens, and all community members predominantly understood the need and were happy that something was being done to help with homelessness in Delano. Some participants were concerned about whether the facility was ideal for this purpose and whether all safety protocols were in place. Their voices were heard, their questions answered, to the best of Flood’s ability, and at the end, most all said they supported these efforts to help with the homeless problem in Delano.

At the request of a Delano City Council member, Wheeler promised another meeting in the evening in August for more people to attend and share their concerns. And while no city officials were present at this meeting, it was a very satisfying experience to see that the county, the city of Delano, various collaborative partners and the community working together to discuss and resolve any problems related to homelessness in Delano. The city of Delano in fact, in a separate meeting, has committed staff to locate another facility that might be better suited to longer-term care of the city’s homeless.

One of the most satisfying components of this program is that we worked collaboratively and stayed the course through criticism and delays. Delano is the first site for a rural navigation center, and this collaboration that was so evident at this meeting suggests that this should be the model for the rest of rural Kern County.

All rural communities have a homeless population, and these homeless are from their communities. Leaving these people with no option but to sleep in the alleys and scrounge for a meal creates the problems communities associate with homelessness. We begin to solve these problems for the community and for the people themselves when we can bring them to a place like a navigation center where they can get connected to the solutions and services available and where they can be treated like humans. As your District 4 supervisor, I promise to help bring this type of model to our other rural communities.

You can help with homelessness, too, by referring those experiencing homelessness to this facility to get help, and to support our efforts to help solve this community problem.

If you have questions about this or any other District 4 matter, don’t hesitate to contact us at 661-868-3680 or at district4@kerncounty.com. Have a safe week.

David Couch represents Kern County’s 4th District.