Women’s Center High Desert – Ridgecrest Strong – Identifying Community Needs

We had an eye-opening conversation with Carol Beecroft, Executive Director of Women’s Center High Desert (WCHD), the only domestic violence and sexual assault shelter in East Kern with a large service area of 2,600 square miles stretching from the desert communities (Ridgecrest, Mojave, Rosamond, California City, Iyokern) to the Kern River Valley area (Lake Isabella, Kernville, Wofford Heights), to Tehachapi. WCHD also serves Trona because, while it’s in San Bernardino, WCHD is a better alternative to the other closest shelter in Barstow, which is almost two hours away. WCHD also provides some homeless services like rapid-rehousing. WCHD is a Kern Community Foundation-registered partner.

Carol identified the needs below that have arisen as a result of the earthquakes (which, by the way, haven’t stopped and continue to be a source of PTSD to locals):

WCHD’s Own Needs

  • Shelter – The women’s shelter operated by WCHD is open, but they are holding off on taking more clients because they are still in wait-and-see mode, as the ground hasn’t stopped shaking. They don’t want to take on more clients pending another possible big jolt.
  • Damage to Administrative Offices – WCHD Administrative Offices are located at 134 S. China Lake Blvd., in a small office complex. The building has been inspected and Carol was told by the inspector that the entire building has shifted and certain offices are unsafe. They are providing limited services out of a service window because they don’t want clients going into the building. Carol is certain that the city is going to eventually red-tag it.
  • Relocation – Carol believes WCHD will need to relocate its administrative offices, but the agency can’t afford that expense.
  • Rise in Domestic Violence – Families at risk for domestic violence are experiencing more stress due to the quakes, the fact that it’s summer, it’s hot, and children are home from school, etc. WCHD has given out six (6) restraining order packets since Monday, which is double what they might give out on an average week, and these are all NEW families that have never sought services from WCHD before.

Community Needs

  • Stores Closed – Ridgecrest, which doesn’t have a lot of shopping options to begin with, is experiencing the temporary closure of a number of stores since the quakes: clothing stores, shoe stores, supermarkets, etc.
  • Restaurants Closed – Electricity was off for a whole day following the first quake, so food went bad in a number of restaurants that are still closed.
  • Family-Owned Businesses Closing – Carol knows of some family-owned businesses that are going to close down altogether because the owners don’t have money for rebuilding/repairs.
  • China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station “Not Mission Capable” – The base continues to be largely closed, as it has incurred much damage.
  • Loss of Income – The above closures represent hundreds of individuals who are temporarily or permanently out of work.

Biggest Needs in Carol’s Opinion

  • Money to help people/families move or relocate out of area altogether. Some people are too afraid to stay in East Kern.
  • Money to help families who have earthquake insurance with high deductibles be able to afford their deductible so their home can be repaired or rebuilt.
  • Money to help social service agencies like WCHD relocate so that essential services can continue to be provided to the community.

Kern Community Foundation has shared this information with Governor Gavin Newsom’s Office to help with a coordinated response to these great earthquake disaster relief needs.

We will continue to work with the Governor’s Office, other Community Foundations, and partners like WCHD to identify and respond to community needs in East Kern in the best way possible.

You can be a partner in our efforts to help East Kern communities by donating to the Kern County Earthquake Disaster Relief Fund using this link.

To help with Trona (San Bernardino County) recovery efforts, you can donate to the Inland Empire Disaster Relief Fund at The Community Foundation using this link.