Jim Mosher likes to compare Bakersfield’s homeless housing environment to a football field.
He says one end zone represents homeless shelters where people go when they have nowhere else to turn. And the other end zone represents permanent housing services like those available through Section 8 vouchers.
“We are the hundred-yard field in between,” he said, a need currently not being met in Bakersfield.
Mosher serves as the chairperson of a new local nonprofit that hopes to create a home for women to not only live, but also learn how to start a new life.
The nonprofit was started by five local women in 2014, and is in the process of raising around $4 million to purchase a house in Bakersfield, and create an endowment that will fund activities at the house.
“It’s just not a place where they live, but a feeling of a home,” said Kathleen Fenn, a marriage and family therapist organizing the fundraising for the nonprofit. “They eat dinners together, they eat meals together, they have meetings.”
She said many of the women expected to live at the home will come from houses where domestic violence is prevalent.
“They don’t know what it’s like to be in a family,” she said. “So they learn that here.”
The nonprofit, named Casa Esperanza Traditional Home for Women, plans to open a home in mid-2021 for between 6 to 8 women and their children.
If all goes as planned, the women will be provided daycare for their kids, and they will receive counseling services.
They will eat together, cook for each other, and do the household chores, contributing a portion of their income to household expenses.
“It’s not going to boil the ocean, it’s not going to solve world hunger, but it will make a difference,” Mosher said. “With everything we do, we want to be sustainable and make a long-term impact.”
Casa Esperanza has raised around $115,000 so far, and hopes to receive more at a fundraiser it's hosting, April 4, at the Stockdale Country Club.
Although the nonprofit still has many more dollars to earn before it reaches its goal, the women who started it all believe they can get there.
“I have always said from the beginning, I do believe this is meant to be,” said Sister Marie Francis Schreopfer, Associate Director of the Fresno Diocesan Social Justice Ministry. “We just have to make it happen. I have never wavered in that conviction.”
Schroepfer said two women approached her at church in 2014, asking if Bakersfield could use a place like Los Angeles’ Alexandria House, which the vision for Casa Esperanza is based off of.
“To my mind it was a no-brainer,” she said. “It is a much-needed organization. The increase in homelessness in Bakersfield is just phenomenal.”
The most recent count found 1,330 people experiencing homelessness in Kern County, a 50 percent increase from 2018.
Casa Esperanza would not only seek to take a few of those people off the streets, but would try to teach them the life skills necessary to keep them in stable housing.
It just needs to raise the money first.
More information about Casa Esperanza can be found at www.esperanzabakersfield.org.