BAKERSFIELD, CA - Local volunteers will continue their efforts to count the number of homeless people here in Kern County as part of a 24-hour census that started late Wednesday. Volunteers are interviewing every person living in a shelter in Bakersfield, as well as those living on the streets, documenting their individual struggles.
Louis Medina with the Kern County Homeless Collaborative says, "we ask for their age. We ask how long they've been homeless and what some their struggles are - physical disability or mental disability, whether they use drugs or alcohol, whether they're a veteran or not. Also, in their homelessness, whether they're alone or they are with a family member."
Officials say the recession, the housing crisis, and unemployment have put tremendous strains on efforts to serve the homeless and get them off the streets into permanent dwellings. The homeless census will help advocates make a case for continued funding for those services.
"Based on how many homeless we find, and what their challenges are, we give that information to the federal government and they decide how much money to give to our community to help with these efforts," said Medina.
According to the Department of Housing, chronic homelessness can shorten a person's life by 25 years, a mortality rate on par with cancer.