The Bakersfield City Council is expected to address a multitude of topics, including the economy, public safety, and Bakersfield’s image, as members lay out their goals for the year at Wednesday’s council meeting.
Councilman Andrae Gonzales of Bakersfield’s 2nd Ward shared his vision for homelessness.
“In Bakersfield we must do more,” he said. “We are focusing on creating a low-barrier shelter for people who have no where else to go,” Gonzales continued.
However, homeless woman Terry Carll-White, who lives on the corner of Eye St. and 18th St. in downtown Bakersfield, indicated the challenges that face local nonprofits and leaders; she said would never go to a shelter.
“I have been homeless a year to a year and a half,” she said, noting medical issues have left her blind in one eye and her right hand immobile.
She is one of 623 homeless people believed to be living in the city — people who council members like Andrea Gonzalez hope to help with the council’s goals for this year that include increasing shelter capacity, improving outreach services, and creating a rapid response team.
“I don’t know what the future holds. I really don’t. But I don’t want to live in a shelter with everybody else,” she said. “I don’t want to live there. And so if I can live on my own with God’s gift then I’m going to do that.”
One recent report suggests it could take as many as 17 contacts with homeless individuals before they agree to go to a shelter. Flood Bakersfield Ministries outreach workers were seen speaking with Carll-White this afternoon.
At this Wednesday’s council meetings, the members also are expected to approve goals relating to public safety, something Gonzales said must remain a top priority. The initiates include the addition of 100 new Bakersfield Police officers over the course of three years, and improving emergency response times.
Goals relating to fiscal solvency, including general reserve funding and pension obligations, are also set for approval, according to Wednesday’s city council agenda.
The economy, jobs, parks, pedestrian safety, downtown development, and a Bakersfield branding campaign also make the list.
“We are very excited about setting forth a new direction for Bakersfield,” Gonzales said. “It’s a great city to live in, but we’re going to make things better. We’re working very hard.”