BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Kern County officials announced they want to move the homeless, essentially, out of the way.
They are looking into drafting similar homeless ordinances that Los Angeles City Council voted on this week.
Simply, they want to make it illegal to sleep outside on the sidewalks, near entrances and exits of businesses and underneath highway overpasses.
Kern County Board of Supervisors met on Tuesday and Supervisor Mike Maggard inquired about making ordinances that would move homeless people out of public spaces and into new homeless shelters.
He said no one will be forced to move but instead be given an option for temporary shelter. However if they decline, then they’ll have to move from the area to follow the ordinance.
“Just because people choose to not comply with societal standards doesn’t mean they have the freedom to destroy the way of life that the rest of us enjoy,” Supervisor Maggard said. “Destroying the ecosystem of the river, making the bike path unusable for many people. Just because someone doesn’t want to comply with the rules of the shelter doesn’t mean they get to do whatever they want.”
However, Supervisor Maggard also said if someone declines temporary housing and continues to break the ordinance it could lead to an arrest.
We spoke with Melissa Shepherd and Richard Green who are both from a downtown Bakersfield homeless community. Shepherd has been homeless for about 15 years and says it’s her choice to stay on the streets and an ordinance won’t change much.
“You really can’t do it,” Shepherd said. “They can put you in jail for a while but once you’ve been out here for a long time. I mean, you know, It’s a choice, I have lived in homes but when you have a lot like us it starts to get at you after a while.”
“They do it all the time,” Green said. “Where? I don’t know, go to the next stop. I never think about it. Wherever you lay down at night, that is what it is. Being here versus at a homeless shelter? Yeah, I’d rather be here than some of those places.”
Azeem Hussaini the co-founder of inthefield661, a homeless advocate organization, said this kind of ordinance will only hurt this community.
“The only thing it will do which is further criminalize and harass our most marginalized population which is our houseless population, Azeem Hussaini said.”
Supervisor Maggard said for the policies to apply in Bakersfield the city would have to adopt a similar plan. He also said it’ll take months to get this ordinance set up.
Bakersfield City Manager’s office declined to comment on if they have plans to work with the county on drafting a similar city homeless ordinance.