Woman helps provide food, necessities for homeless in Kern County

December 13, 2021 /

A local hero discusses her experience with helping the homeless.

Dulse Gastélum works with her family and friends to prepare food for the homeless for about 200 people, and at times she also gives them sweaters, blankets, and other necessities. 

“We have run into different types of people such as teachers, doctors, and people who sound well educated,” said Gastélum. “We don’t know why they are there. We know we are not going to change the world but a little grain of corn can go a long way.”

Gastélum explains that people never know if they will ever end up homeless, and that is why it is good to help others.

“It does not matter how high or low your status is. In this area, you find all types of people. Their money was not enough and that’s why they were there,” said Gastélum.

She explains that they have found people who use a candle to keep themselves warm. They take necessities to help these types of people. 

Gastélum has also found people who suffer from mental illness. 

“I see a lot of cases where the kids have autism and the parents are very unaware why they think the child is throwing tantrums,” said Gastélum. “They are not able to distinguish what Autism is, and in the streets there are a lot of people that have Autism that weren’t treated.”

There are many reasons why people might be there such as depression and drugs, and it breaks her heart to see young people in the streets.

“People think that adolescents can work because they are young, but at the moment they are not ready,” said Gastélum.

When she helps out the first thing she looks for is kids or elder people, since they are more vulnerable. She has always tried to help people one way or another. She describes helping as something beautiful that fills her heart.

Gastélum has encountered a dangerous situation. Where a woman once took out a knife because she thought they were robbing her, but in the end she realized she was receiving help. 

“That small space is their personal space because that is where they have their belongings. When we got there the woman was asleep and she took out her knife, but she then realized she was receiving help and she apologized,” said Gastélum.

Gastélum and her family and friends go together in cars and they stick together to distribute the needs of the homeless. This helps them stay safe.

There was another occasion where a police officer kept following them in their car. Gastélum explains that they kept stopping in the streets occasionally and the police officer would follow, and when he realized what they were doing, tears started to fall down the officer’s face.

She describes the best situation as a day they made chicken soup for Thanksgiving. It took a long time to make and they had found a lot of homeless individuals that day. As the day ended, they kept finding more people and her kids would say ‘look let’s give that person food,’ they were already running out of food and what was left was for them. The kids said they had more food at home and they were happy to give away their meal. When they got home they ate cups of noodles, but their hearts were filled with joy. 

Another reason she loves to help others is because she shows her kids how to be humble and help others.

Gastélum has an incredible history. She was born in Mexico, Sinaloa where she used to live in a cardboard house and she has had many different types of jobs. 

“You can see all those documentaries that they have of Mexico about how people live in cardboard houses,” said Gastélum. “I got to live in a cardboard house, and I am not embarrassed about that. If anything in my house it would rain more inside than it would outside. I would have loved for someone to have helped my family.”

She has been working since she was 8. Necessities are what pushed her forward to work hard for what her family and herself needed. Some of the jobs that she has worked have been as a carpenter, at a taco stand, cleaning houses, buying recycling, working in stores, and packing by age 16. She even worked bagging groceries in cars at age 6 and she needed a stool to reach the back of some of the cars.

“My mom with her savings she bought a lot, and they built a cardboard house,” said Gastélum. “My smaller brothers did not experience this, but I was able to experience all that. The first candle that I blew out for my birthday was at age 15 or 16.”

They try to help others on their birthdays and holidays, and they try to give warm food not just any food like sandwiches.

“Let’s not give what we have leftover, let’s give what our heart tells us,” said Gastélum. “The one that has, does not give, but it is the one that wants, that gives.”

She is thinking about helping people again around Christmas time.

Erica Murillo

Erica Murillo is a project coordinator and reporter at South Kern Sol. She was born in Bakersfield, California, and her origin is from Guanajuato, Mexico. She is a first-generation graduate from California State University, Bakersfield where she earned a degree in Liberal Studies with a minor in English. Murillo's first job was working in the fields picking grapes. She has been able to evolve and continue to grow within her career. She can be reached at erica@southkernsol.org.