Community stepped up to help with 2019 homeless count

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Hundreds of volunteers hit the streets this morning to help complete the count that started last night of Kern County’s homeless. 

Organizers say the number of volunteers helping with the count hit a record this year. Over 400 people stepped up to address our county’s growing issue. 

“We all see it on our streets,” said Heather Kimmel with the Housing Authority of Kern. “Everywhere you go you see homelessness, you are faced with it day to day.”

An army of volunteers fanned out through Kern County to get a snapshot of the homelessness problem.

“It really lets us know what’s happening here locally with people experiencing homelessness,” said Jessica Janssen with United Way of Kern.

The “Point in Time” count, is done over a 12 hour period.

“A lot of different things we’re looking at: gender, age, history of mental health issues, substance abuse issues, reasons for homelessness, how long someone has been homeless,” said Janssen. “We’re gathering a lot of data.”

The data collected is used to apply for state and federal funding.

The last count in 2018 found there were 885 homeless people living in the county, that was up 9 percent from the previous year. 

But, more concerning was the 46 percent increase found just in the city of Bakersfield.  Officials say they don’t expect that much of a change this year.

“We’re seeing increases across the board, there’s definitely an increase in single unaccompanied women, so there are populations we need to figure out how to serve better,” said Louis Gill with the Bakersfield Homeless Center.

The Housing Authority attributes the rise to factors like substance abuse and mental illness, but they say that’s not the biggest contributing factor they see. 

“The primary reason for the rise in homelessness in Kern County and across the state of California is the lack of affordable housing, there’s just not enough affordable units to house the people that need them,” said Kimmel.

We can expect to see results from this count around March. 

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