The city of Bakersfield’s new homeless shelter is expected to begin construction this May and be ready in the fall, according to city officials.
In a presentation provided to the City Council, Assistant City Manager Jacqui Kitchen said a purchase agreement for the $4.9 million, 17-acre Calcot property was signed by Calcot just today. The city is on track to open escrow soon.
“The city (has) access to a majority of the site now that we are opening escrow,” Kitchen said. “We expect to have an operator selected by the end of March.”
According to the presentation, the city is expected to select an operator of the facility by the end of March. Escrow is expecting to close on the property by April 30, after which construction will ramp up on the new shelter, now officially called the Bakersfield Homeless Navigation Center.
Last month, the City Council had voted to allow the city to enter into an agreement for the property.
The city has said the new facility would accommodate up to 450 beds, include office space for service providers and would give homeless people access to case managers, transportation services, housing navigators, medical and mental health services as well as animal care.
According to the city, the property would include space for a new Bakersfield Police Department substation as well as room for new Bakersfield-Kern Regional Homeless Collaborative staff.
Kitchen said the city is planning to use $390,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding to pay for curb, gutter and sidewalk and other improvements to the residential neighborhood located just west of the future shelter.
However, Councilman Willie Rivera took issue with this, saying that Measure N money should be used for those projects so that the CDBG money could be implemented elsewhere in his ward.
“I’m going to be the last one to say I never want to see improvements there, but I also know that if Measure N dollars were used to improve the community around Calcot, I would have more money to improve another part of southeast Bakersfield, and now I’ve lost the opportunity to do that in this next fiscal year. That’s not fair,” he said.
Vice Mayor Chris Parlier agreed with Rivera that the city should look at alternatives to fund the upgrades.
“I just want to make sure that as we go forward, we’re not sucking out not only CDBG monies but other resources that could be providing normal resources to the city,” he said. “It’s important that those funds still remain to be utilized within areas of the city they are normally utilized for.”
Earlier this month, Parlier asked city staff to look into how many employees in other cities are addressing homelessness. Wednesday’s presentation included a slide featuring 14 cities in the state, how large their homeless population is and how many staff are focused on homelessness.
According to the slide, most California cities do not have staff dedicated toward homelessness. In the list, only San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside and Greendale were confirmed to do so.
San Francisco has the largest amount of dedicated staff at around 250 people, the list shows. However, they also have the largest homeless population, with nearly 1 percent of the population being homeless according to their 2019 Point-In-Time count.
Bakersfield’s homeless population, by comparison, is only .30 percent of the total population, according to the presentation, placing it in the middle of the list.
“Most…cities in California do not have fully dedicated staff that are addressing homelessness yet, but that may change over time as we see more and more resources being dedicated to this at the local, state and federal levels,” Kitchen said.
Kitchen said she hopes that once an operator is selected for the shelter and it opens later this year, the city will be able to dedicate staff to address homelessness.