This year’s point-in-time homeless census reflected a stunning increase in the documented number of people living on the streets in Kern County.
Community leaders say doing nothing is not an option. They want the public to know they are actively working to provide resources to the 1,330 counted homeless people living in our county. The figure represents a 50 percent increase from last year’s point-in-time count.
Louis gill, CEO of The Bakersfield Homeless Center and committee member with the Bakersfield Homeless Collaborative, says the time for action is now.
“Our point-in-time count — our census — tells us there are more people out there that need help, so we must expand our services,” he said.
He noted the Bakersfield Homeless Center is at 96 percent capacity, but remains committed to helping as many women and families as possible. The center soon will add 40 beds for women.
“We are working very hard to help everyone that walks up,” Gill said. “What folks need to know is that we are utilizing everything we have,” he continued.
“These numbers are very high, but I’m very optimistic. It’s not in our nature to turn away from the hard things; Kern County doesn’t do that. I’m looking forward to working with everyone so we can solve this problem.”
The Mission at Kern County also is taking steps to address the issue. Carlos Baldovinos, executive director of the Mission, also is the chairman of the Bakersfield Homeless Collaborative.
“We are at or near capacity every day. But…we are adding 40 permanent beds to one of our shelter facilities,” Baldovinos said. “We need to care for them and get them right on track.”
The facility also plans to convert a building near the facility into a community resource center.
Bill walker, director of Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services said his team is dedicated to providing services for those who need it.
“We have at least 15 staff directly dedicated to homeless outreach,” he said. “Through our vendor contracts that we will be initiating within the next 90 days, that [figure] will more than double to 30 or 40. In addition to that, we are looking to put in another 10 to 15 staff within the county connected to our regional offices where they will be able to work with our local law enforcement, local hospitals, local outreach and churches in those areas specifically.”
The oversight committee in charge of measure N is in the process of making recommendations to city leaders about how to tackle the homeless issue.
A new homeless rapid response team for the city’s parks department is among the many proposals they will consider.
Some have long asserted that homeless are being sent to Kern from other counties, but Gill said the figures do not support such a claim.
Members of our community are very concerned that homeless people are being shipped on buses and trains,” Gill said. “In the census we found 220 people out of 1,330 that were homeless before they came to Kern county. Our data does not show that there was a vast program of shipping individuals to us.”
That figure comes out to roughly 17 percent of those counted.