Recently, I met with Delano’s mayor, Liz Morris, and several other key community stakeholders to walk the streets of Delano. We were there to talk to neighbors of our recently funded Delano Navigation Center at 531 High St. We were there because we wanted to make sure the neighbors understood and would be supportive of a solution we’ve worked together on to help solve Delano’s homeless problem. We were there because we wanted the neighbors to know the Delano Navigation Center would be a good neighbor. What we discovered is that we will have good neighbors.

It’s another example of the spirit of Delano that I’ve come to appreciate so much. This community is willing to deal with its problems as if they are their own, and theirs to solve. We met with the business owners around 531 High St., where the Navigation Center will be located, and showed them our plan and assured them that the surrounding community would be maintained and improved as a result of this facility, and the neighbors were receptive and supportive.

This is how we can solve problems, by communicating with each other, by anticipating community concerns, and by addressing them before issues can become problems.

You may recall we’ve been working on the Delano Navigation Center for quite some time now. It is a place where Delano’s homeless population can get a meal, a conversation with some people who can help, and a safe night of sleep. It is not a shelter, as people will not be able to stay at this facility for a day or more. But they will get needed help that can get them back on their feet or connected with services or family members.

We were able to get funding from some state and federal funding sources so that the City of Delano would not need to spend your local tax money on this project. We continue to search for more funding. In the meantime, to keep costs low, we met with your faith-based community to see if they might help. True to Delano’s form, the faith-based community has responded with a commitment to provide volunteers to help staff this facility. We anticipate opening this unique solution to Kern County homelessness around Nov. 1.

But we have to be good neighbors, and we needed to make sure our neighbors would not respond negatively to this much-needed community service. So we walked the streets, met with our new neighbors and discussed our Good Neighbor Policy, where we will make sure the area is maintained and make sure no loitering occurs. We can make sure this area is safer, cleaner, and friendlier, but we needed the neighbors to buy-in, and in typical Delano form, the neighbors were very supportive.

Much thanks to Mike Gutierrez and DADD and his board of directors, who are making their facility available, and to Jim Wheeler at Flood Ministries, who will be managing this facility. Special thanks to our neighbors also, to Cynthia Cruz at SmileLand Dental, to Juan Lara at San Joaquin Realty, to Eric at Big Dogz Recycling Center, to Luis Zaragosa at Zaragosa Automotive, to Maria at Victoria’s Donuts, to our neighbors at Seivers Auto Parts, and Anna at Little Flower Shop.

If you have any questions about this or any other matter, feel free to contact us at district4@kerncounty.com or at 661-868-3680. Have a safe week.

David Couch represents Kern County’s Fourth District.

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