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Mental health focus of church outreach event

Flood Ministries and Free Will Baptist Church will hold their first Wasco Community Outreach event on Saturday, May 27, intending to raise awareness and help end the stigma around mental health.

There will be mental health resources, homeless services, food, vendor booths and activities for the kids.

The event is in collaboration with American Refuse, the Independent Living Center of Kern County and Kern County Superintendent of Schools.

"Kern County Sheriff's Office and City of Wasco leadership are also involved. I think that's fantastic," Paul Hernandez, assistant pastor for the Free Will Baptist Church and one of the organizers, said.

The event is being hosted to coincide with mental health awareness month in May.

Though the focus is mental health, homelessness is often tied directly to that.

"When you look at the root of homelessness, you need to consider mental health," Hernandez said.

He believes it is important to hold these types of events to fight stigma related to mental health and because the number of available resources is often overlooked or just uncommunicated.

"Putting all of our resources in place in one day, in one location, would help the community meet those providers."

He said it's time to take action because the housing and homelessness issue, especially in Wasco, has grown tremendously.

"If we got together and made a concentrated effort, it wouldn't grow. We need to take action before we can't do anything about it. If everyone in Wasco worked together, we could end homelessness before it becomes an epidemic."

Hernandez said that most people that are experiencing homelessness in Wasco are from the community.

"They are our friends and family and people we went to school with now living on the streets. We need to take care of them."

He believes the event will empower the residents of Wasco and those suffering from homelessness and mental health conditions.

"We will do this in two ways. First, we need them to realize that there are people who care about them and want to help. Second, it will help the community understand that the need is present."

Hernandez said that if we look at people as people, not problems, we will succeed together.

"Many times when we see someone experience some mental health issue, we turn our back on them instead of looking at someone suffering. We need a compassionate view," he said. "We ought to realize that they are not plights on our society, but they are people that are struggling."

The event at Free Will Baptist Church, 938 7th St., will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Applications for vendors and sponsorships are still available. For more information, contact Paul Hernandez at 661-758-5906.


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