BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — More than 2,000 people experiencing homelessness in Kern County were identified in January.

The Bakersfield-Kern Regional Homeless Collaborative released the results of its 2021 Point-in-Time Count today, which shows that 2,150 people were identified as homeless on Jan. 27, about a 27 percent increase over the 1,580 homeless individuals identified in last year’s count. 

However, the methodology for this year’s count was different due to COVID-19. Typically, the BKRHC picks a day in January each year for volunteers to go out into the homeless community and conduct a count.

This year, the agency combined in-person data from emergency shelters and navigation centers with data gathered and extrapolated from the Homeless Management Information System to come up with its count. 

According to the 2021 count, 1,581 of the homeless individuals were unsheltered on Jan. 27, a significant increase from 1,004 in last year’s count. There were 569 sheltered homeless individuals counted this year, a slight decrease from 576 the previous year. 

“2020 was a difficult year for our most vulnerable neighbors,” said BKRHC Executive Director Anna Laven. “The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impacts correlate strongly with an increase in demand for homeless services. The 2021 PIT Count Report reiterates what we already know: homelessness continues to be one of the most challenging issues facing our community.”

The agency said both sheltered and unsheltered counts are likely to have been influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impacts. Shelters reduced bed capacity to follow CDC-recommended practices for congregate sheltering. 

The increase in unemployment, lack of affordable housing, and record low rental vacancies are reasonably believed contributors to the unsheltered total, according to the BKRHC. 

About three quarters of both the sheltered and unsheltered population were adults 24 years of age or older and 70 percent of the total population was white, the count shows. 

Men made up the majority of the unsheltered count while the sheltered count was evenly split between both genders, the report shows. There was one sheltered transgender individual counted and three unsheltered.

One person identifying as gender non-conforming was also part of the sheltered count.

To see the full report, click here.