BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – A full house tonight at CSUB’s Dezember Reading Room for a community forum on homelessness.
The forum brought together three experts on the front lines of the issue. It was hosted by the Kegley Institute of Ethics. The panelists included Louis Gill, executive director of the Bakersfield Homeless Center and two formerly homeless individuals who now serve in leadership positions addressing homelessness down south.
Meet Dorothy Edwards, formerly homeless, but now the enrichment services coordinator for Housing Works of California, a southern California homeless service organization.
“I’ve always used drugs all my life since I was 15, it was a big lifestyle for me,” said Edwards.
She lived on the streets on and off for most of her life.
“The days became weeks, weeks become months, months become years,” said Edwards.
During a homeless point-in-time count, Edwards was labeled chronically homeless.
“I was deemed to be one of Pasadena’s most likely to die within a year if I wasn’t housed,” said Edwards.
Luckily Housing Works was able to find Edwards a home.
“The solution to homelessness is a home, that’s the bottom line,” said Gill. “But, how someone gets to stay there is by building a community and that means they have someone that cares for them and they believe that is true.”
That was the main focus of Thursday night’s homelessness discussion at CSUB.
“You take someone from the street, provide them a home and also intensive support and wrap-around services and by virtue, with a roof over your head you begin to get better,” said Shawn Morrisey.
Morrisey was also once homeless. Now he works as director of advocacy and community engagement for Union Station, another homeless service organization.
“I’m the rule, rather than the exception that this is what happens when you, first of all, give someone a home, then second, surround them with the proper amount of love, nurture and intentional support,” said Morrisey.
Kern County’s last homeless count identified 1,330 homeless individuals, 178 chronically homeless like Edwards.