Homelessness is a growing problem in Kern County

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There’s no disputing it. Homelessness is a growing problem in Kern County and right here in Bakersfield. The evidence is everywhere. The shelters are full. And there are hundreds of people living on the edges of survival, without a fixed night-time residence to call their own.

Advocates agree, the lack of transitional shelters and affordable housing are the biggest impediments to effectively reducing homelessness.

County supervisors got their first look at a new ten-year plan to end homelessness Monday from The Kern County Homeless Collaborative (KCHC).

KCHC has been working for years to eradicate homelessness in our community. 

For the past 6-months, they have been working on a new 10-year plan called “Home At Last” to end homelessness locally by 2028. But with our number of homeless rising, folks are worried it’s going to take a lot more than a 6-point plan to really see this issue resolved. 

From 2017 to 2018, Kern County has seen a 9 percent increase in homelessness. 

65-year-old Bettie Peoples is one of them. On June 18, her home for 20 years went up in flames.

“I came here in 84 and I’ve been working the whole time. And now I’m retired and I find myself homeless,” Peoples said.

She’s been living out of her car for almost two months. And she is very far from alone. 

“I especially see it in my shelter and the programs we run at The Mission at Kern County. We are full to capacity every single night and we just don’t have enough room,” said Carlos Baldovinos, the director at The Mission at Kern County to the board of supervisors at Monday’s meeting. 

Which is why the Kern County homeless collaborative’s new 10-year plan recommends adding 10,000 new affordable housing beds over the course of 10 years. 

“It’s pretty striking to think that in the rest of the country, homelessness is going down. And yet in California we have unprecedented homelessness,” said Leticia Perez, District 5 Supervisor. 

The plan also requires that the community get involved in a much bigger way. 

“We need the community to be very active and aggressive in asking their elected officials to prioritize this issue,” said Perez. 

For the near 900 homeless people in Kern County, like Peoples, who don’t know the next time they’ll sleep in a bed, it’s crucial that this plan works. 

The new plan  – “Home at Last!” – proposes six recommendations: 

  1. Establish a coordinated entry system
  2. Prevent homelessness and repeated homelessness whenever possible 
  3. Improve the economic security, health/stability of homeless and at-risk people 
  4. Ensure that emergency shelter, transitional housing and interim housing beds are adequate to meet current and future demands
  5. Increase the affordable housing inventory for homeless individuals and families by 10,470 new beds (1,047 per year over 10 years) 
  6. Broaden and strengthen community support for ending homelessness 

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