Tuesday, Arvin Navigation Center of Flood Ministries and several other local organizations came together to offer free services with food and music. Clinica Sierra Vista Mobile Care Unit, Independent Living Center of Kern County, Kern County Cancer Foundation, NRN Legal Services, and many other nonprofits had informational booths accessible to attendees.
What was once the Kern County Health Department Clinic is now the new Navigation Center in Arvin starting in 2022. The center is primarily for day-time drop-ins and is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They offer breakfast, lunch, laundry services, a mobile shower 2-3 times a week, and cots for resting. Monday evenings at the Navigation Center are open to Narcotics Anonymous and every fourth Tuesday of the month is when Smile Makers Dental Services are available.
Flood Ministries is run by Charlie Van De Voorde, Community Development and Engagement Manager, and a team of committed individuals who help with planning, outreach, reunification programs, and securing housing for those in need. Van De Voorde is the main coordinator for this multifaceted community outreach event.
“When you meet somebody and you can see the darkness, there’s no light in their eyes. There’s no smile on their face. They’re dreary and they think their life is where it’s at and that’s the end. And after you work with them for so long- it doesn’t just happen right away- you can promise them all kinds of things but they probably heard those promises before. So you have to slowly build that self-sufficiency in them, and give them opportunities as best as you can. Then you slowly start to see that glimmer, that light come back into their eyes,” explained Van De Voorde. He states it’s all heart that keeps a facility like theirs open. “We’re saving lives here.”
The facility, on a surface level, can offer immediate relief for those experiencing homelessness by providing food, shelter, laundry services, and housing vouchers. On a deeper level, they guide Kern families through reunification with unhoused loved ones, do frequent check-ins with individuals working towards renting their own space, ensure dental care is available, and those undocumented can be guided through paperwork with an attorney available if necessary.
The mission of the center resonates on a personal level with Van De Voorde and other staff members. Van De Voorde is currently in recovery, and for years has been serving his church and community. Many of the staff have personal connections to the unhoused crisis, some having lived the harsh reality.
“The goal for [the community outreach event] is real simple, offer hope and opportunity. It comes in a variety of ways, because each person faces something different,” stated Van De Voorde. He explained that the center is welcoming to undocumented and disabled individuals, those fighting addiction, domestic abuse victims, run-away youth, anyone facing mental illness, cancer patients, those experiencing homelessness, or a combination of these circumstances.
Van De Voorde urges Kern residents to call him at (661)-323-5663 extension 1036, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on any services or ways to get involved.
Renee Hernandez, a volunteer with Independent Living of Kern County, explained the organization’s main goal was to support individuals to live independently.
“We’re in conjunction with Flood Ministries, and on my part, I help with the homeless to get them back into housing… I’m excited to see [Flood Ministries], they have a Navigation in Arvin, for the rural community I think it’s great to have,” stated Hernandez.
For those supporting loved ones struggling currently Van De Voorde’s advice is to reach out for help and talk to someone trusted. He stresses there is never shame in needing help or experiencing homelessness.