Homeless Quarters Making Impression On Bakersfield Community

written by Isaac Rocha of The Runner published on Wednesday, February 2, 2005

When CSUB Professor Russell Travis first ventured his Homeless Quarters idea into the communities of Bakersfield it wasn't without anxiety. The idea came from years of addressing the topic as part of his Social Stratification and Childhood and Society courses and studies, and its aim was to put an end to homelessness in America using public donations. "I did the math," said Travis, "And if every person in America placed oae quarter a day it would equal $6.9 billion. Locally I did the same thing." According to his website, homelessquarters.org, Kern County has approximately 661,645 people, and if one quarter of the population were to give one quarter a day for a year, the total amount collected would be $14,886,990. With such an ambitious goal as ending homelessness, he was steadfast in confidence that with public support his plan would work. Having never done anything like this before, Travis set out with makeshift plastic houses, some math figures, and a vision. His idea was rejected in the first two businesses he stopped at. The Homeless Quarters idea revolves around clear, small, plastic house-shaped containers called "banks" placed throughout the community in which people can donate quarters. it discouraged," says Dr. Travis, "But I knew I couldn't stop after just two. It was a good thing I didn't stop because the next ten businesses accepted my idea." The grass root campaigning with modest beginnings has now become a tree of hope for the homeless. Close to 200 businesses and offices throughout Bakersfield, including CSUB, now cany the small houses for quarter donations. Last year, the organization collected $10,000, which now has a working Board of Directors with 11 members, each responsible for collecting and monitoring 10 banks. "The ultimate goal is 400 banks which would give us $50,000 a year," said Travis. The money is used to help those who are homeless or near homeless, who are a paycheck or two away from the stereotype. These are the working poor people, felling in the cracks of downsizing, stagnant wages and lack of affordable housing. A recent request by the Community Homeless Law Center Project reveals how the money helps the homeless. A woman (name withheld) was living in The Bakersfield Homeless Center without any of her children. She became a client of the project and after faithfully attending AA meetings, completing her employer's training resource plan and enrolling in Bakersfield College she has her children back with her. She is ready to move out of the Homeless Center but she is not able to pay an outstanding PG&E bill of $522.26. She has also been offered a car, but cannot pay the $70 to reinstate her license and issue her a new one. Homeless Quarters has been asked to donate the $592.22 for this client. Another request for money was made by the Bakersfield Homeless Center. They have implemented an on site Job Development and Placement program which has seen 44 people complete its course and earn certificates in fields such as petroleum safety, first aid and heavy equipment operation. They are asking for money to help pay for California Drivers licenses, ID's and work boots to help these people get back to work. "Not everybody will get off the streets, the chronic homeless, those who are brain damaged and drug addicts," said Dr. Travis. "But there are countless thousands who don't fit this category; they just caught some bad luck." Those interested in donating or becoming volunteers can do so by contacting the organization on their website, www.homelessquarters.org, or by writing to Homeless Quarters, 2914 20th St. Bakersfield, Calif. 93301. Or just give a quarter a day to those banks laced throughout the community.