BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) – After years on the streets, Vicki Davis is now living in an apartment.
She’s one of the people who lived in the big homeless camp on South Union Avenue, and she took up the offer for help to finally get into housing. She’s grateful, but admits she’s still adjusting to a roof over her head and real bed to sleep on.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Davis said Monday.
That’s what happened Friday, her first night in the small apartment. “I kept opening my eyes to look, see if the tent was going to get wet.”
Davis said she had a tent in the homeless camp on Union for about a year, but she’d been on the streets off and on for 10 to 15 years.
“To have a place of my own, I can’t get used to it yet,” Davis said, “I’m still taking it in.”
Davis said she had a place at the far end of the three big lots on S. Union, just south of Highway 58. That’s a location Bakersfield City officials have worked to clear, after getting complaints from nearby businesses.
Bakersfield Code Enforcement officials said they were first alerted to the situation last fall, and it took time to track down the property owners, and then go through the court process to get an abatement warrant.
But, they got that. The judge ruled the site was a nuisance, and the trash, junk, abandoned furniture and tents had to go. People at the site also had to move. Authorities worried about health and safety issues.
Eyewitness News first discovered the large camp of homeless people in February. They had no bathroom facilities, and that was a concern for health officials. Some also cooked food at their tent sites, and that was a worry for fire department crews.
Homeless people at the location were told they had to be out by May 27, and that’s when city crews came in to clear it.
But before that, a number of assistance groups had been to the site repeatedly to help the homeless people get into housing. Davis said she decided to take the offer.
“I was just done,” she said, “I just can’t take it no more, I’d seen stuff there that I’d never seen before.” Davis said possessions were stolen from the people living there, some people were beaten up and there was “extortion.”
She was unsure if the help would actually materialize, but went through the steps to get needed documents to qualify for housing assistance.
Her apartment is provided by Corporation for Better Housing, she’s getting on-going assistance from the Independent Living Center, and the help was coordinated by the United Way.
Christine Lollar’s with United Way, and she’s the spokeswoman for the Kern County Homeless Collaborative.
“To see Vicki here and to see how brave she was to change that cycle, it takes a lot of guts,” Lollar told Eyewitness News. She’s not surprised that Davis had a hard time sleeping in the apartment.
The small apartment has a living room, kitchen, bedroom, four closets and bathroom.
“I’ve got a bath tub,” Davis said with a big smile. “I’ve got a place for my little dog to run around.”
Davis said she ended up homeless after her husband lost a truck driving job some years ago, but admitted she was also too stubborn to ask her family for help.
Now, she says accepting assistance is critical. She said it took time to believe the local organizations were really going to help her, and follow through with that assistance.
But, she’s convinced that will happen, and hopes other homeless people will also take the steps she did.
“The message needs to get out there, there are people, and there is housing available,” Davis said.
From the Homeless Collaborative, Lollar said they believe 5 people from the homeless camp on Union are now in the process of getting into housing.
Davis hopes people who know her will see that she is now off the streets.
“They’ll say, ‘She was one of us, and if it can happen for her, maybe it will happen for me,'” Davis said. “They have to just let their pride go, and just say — OK, I’m tired already and I want to do it.”