City of Bakersfield hosts first of two public meetings on future homeless shelter site

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The City of Bakersfield Tuesday hosted its first of two community meetings on two proposed homeless shelter sites.

More than 100 members of the community, city officials, and local leaders gathered for the discussion at the Jerusalem Mission Church on 924 Cottonwood Road in Southeast Bakersfield to learn more about the shelter possibilities.

“We’re trying to get the homeless into facilities where they could be cared for,” said Bakersfield City Manager Alan Tandy about the possible shelter sites.

The first proposed location is a 450 bed, seven and a half acre property 1900 East Brundage Lane — land long occupied by cotton grower Calcot.

The second proposal calls for the shelter to be located at a 1.89 acre piece of land on East 18th Street and Brown Street in East Bakersfield.

“No matter where we locate, we want to do it right,” said Bakersfield Assistant City Manager Jacqui Kitchen. She discussed what would be allowed at the future low-barrier shelter, and what would not be permitted at the site.

“For Bakersfield, what low barrier would mean is pets, partners, possessions are ok,” she said. “As for whether you can bring in weapons, open drug use at the facility? No. That is not what we are proposing, we don’t think that’s safe.”

Kitchen said, regardless of location, the future site would be referral-only, would be fenced, and would come with security.

Members of the community like like Audrey Chavez were given an opportunity for Q+A at Tuesday’s meeting, where they could voice their thoughts.

“We need to house our people. We need to do something today because it’s cold out there,” she said in front of the group. “I’d like to see us move forward and I’d like to see our homeless housed, receive shelter, and I’d like to see them receive care and treatment and I believe this type of creativity should be honored.

However, Isaiah Crompton, who lives near the proposed shelters, said a new shelter would add more problems to a southeast Bakersfield community already dealing with its fair share of issues.

“I don’t think the city coming in and dropping a 450-bed facility is going to be helpful for our community,” Crompton said. “We have a vision for this community. We would like to see stores, pharmacies, affordable housing — we’d like to see some good things in this community, instead of what the city wants to bring. I know that [a shelter} is needed; let’s make it smaller, more than one, and let’s be fair about it.”

Next week’s meeting is set for next Monday, December 16 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center on South Owens Street. The event is scheduled for 6 p.m., and the public is encouraged to attend.

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