Board of Supervisors to consider plan of action on homelessness

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Members of the Board of Supervisors will vote on a multi million dollar proposal that would put additional homeless outreach workers on our streets.

If the $2.9 million plan is approved, Flood Bakersfield Ministries would provide additional homeless outreach, something its executive director says will not put an end to homelessness, but added would be a good start. 

“It’s really important funding because it fills a gap,” said Jim Wheeler, executive director of Flood Bakersfield Ministries. The nonprofit focuses on reaching out to all homeless with a focus on the most vulnerable, including the mentally ill and those facing addiction.

If members of the Board of Supervisors approve the plan, Flood Bakersfield Ministries would contract with the county to fund additional outreach coordinators to directly engage the homeless.

“We’re a small staff. this contract will allow us to increase our staff and increase our presence in Kern County,” Wheeler said.

If the contract is approved, Flood Bakersfield Ministries would be able to increase its street outreach team from four workers to 15, something wheeler believes will greatly impact the homeless.

“Our recent point-in-time county stated the 29 percent of those folks had mental health issues and 51 percent had a history of substance abuse,” Wheeler said. “What this contract does is allow our outreach workers to go and engage those folks and connect them; link them to services that Kern Behavioral Health and other agencies provide.”

1st district Supervisor Mick Gleason said he will wait to hear all arguments before deciding how he will vote, but added action is needed.

“We’re going to collect real-time data, we’re going to have people out on the street, [and] they are going to have electronic gear that’s going to have that person or those people hooked up with the services they require immediately,” Gleason said. “[The plan is] real-time work, and it’s going to help us understand the depths of the problem and dynamics of the problem.”

Wheeler noted the plan will help combat the issue, but added that, ultimately, more will need to be done.

“Our system of care does a great job, but it’s limited,” he said. “This [plan] fills one of the gaps in our system of care, but we need to continue in our community to seek additional funding and use additional resources so that we can have a comprehensive approach to reducing homelessness in Kern county.”

If approved, the plan would take effect on April 2nd, and would last through June of 2021.

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