BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — For years, Kern County has been among the leaders in homeless rates among school-aged children. However, with unemployment numbers rivaling those of the Great Depression, the county is bracing for an influx of newly homeless students to start the next school year.
Curt Williams, Director of the Mckinney-Vento homeless education program, says the historic unemployment numbers brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic will create a dramatic increase in youth and family homelessness in the upcoming months.
“We expect the numbers to increase due to the loss of jobs and, subsequently, housing,” said Williams.
He expects an unprecedented year-over-year increase once state eviction moratoriums and emergency unemployment benefits end later this year.
“Some estimates are as high as you know the increase of 15 to 25%,” said Williams.
The county, which has the highest for the homeless student population in the Central Valley, will provide additional resources to help families transitioning.
“We must do everything we can to help these families feel safe, stable, secure because that’s going to affect the well being of those kids and their ability to perform in school,” said Louis Gill, Executive Director of the Bakersfield Homeless Center.
KCSOS’s Mckinney-Vento homeless education program, which serves more than 5,000 students every year, will expand its services.
“If it’s access to a laptop, a hotspot, or the internet, we want to work with them to ensure that they have those services so that they can attend school and be successful,” said Williams.
Some of other new resources and strategies include:
- Launching a new, countywide Online Referral Form to link families to their school district McKinney-Vento contacts for services.
- Online training for teachers and front office staff on identifying students who may be eligible for homeless education support.
- Redesigning community awareness materials so that newly homeless families understand their rights and accompanying benefits.
- Developing a peer-to-peer mentoring group for homeless students to begin this fall.
If you would like to learn more about the additional resources offered by KCSOS, click here.