As California’s ninth most populous city, Bakersfield has the lowest homeless rate of the 11 most populous cities in the state.
However, according to Mayor Karen Goh, homelessness is a problem the state is calling a crisis.
“But it’s not only happening in Bakersfield; it’s in all of our cities that homelessness has grown,” Mayor Goh said.
In 2017, California’s homeless population topped 134,000.
“One of the big drivers really is the lack of affordable housing and housing affordability,” said Jason Rhine, the assistant legislative director at the League of California Cities.
That’s why $500 million of the state budget has been set aside to tackle homelessness.
Each city will be allocated an amount based on their ‘point-in-time count,’ or how many homeless people are in the city on one particular night.
Bakersfield’s point-in-time count tops 800, for which the city will get $3.8 million. That divides out to nearly $5,000 for each homeless person.
“The city of Bakersfield received 1.2 (million) for direct allocation, and the homeless collaborative received 2.6 (million),” Mayor Goh said.
However, this money will be for emergency spending only–for housing vouchers, rapid rehousing, shelter construction, or emergency temporary shelters.
But the ultimate goal is permanent, sustainable housing.
“They can go out in the streets, get people off the streets, match them up with the county, get them those wraparound services that they need, and get them housed immediately. The money is really meant on an emergency basis, get people off the street immediately,” Rhine said.
There’s also a popular rumor that homeless people are being bussed to Bakersfield from larger cities, like Los Angeles or San Francisco.
“There’s a misconception that homeless are being bussed en masse to our community. We have yet to find any evidence of that, and if anybody has proof, we certainly welcome hearing that. But all the leads that we have followed have not to anything like that,” explained Mayor Goh.
Bakersfield top city officials were in attendance, including the police and fire chiefs, council members, and local attorneys.