City, county, state, and federal leaders, including Congressman Kevin McCarthy joined together Wednesday for a roundtable discussion on homelessness.
The event at the Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce was not open to journalists, but McCarthy and fellow leaders spoke to media afterwards, where they announced a plan to combat homelessness in the Golden Empire.
Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh, 3rd District Supervisor Mike Maggard, Assemblyman Vince Fong, Bakersfield Homeless Center Executive Director Louis Gill, and the Mission at Kern County Executive Director Carlos Baldovinos were among those who spoke.
City and county leaders said they agreed to meet during the next two weeks to iron out logistics for a temporary homeless shelter. They intend to have the shelter up and running somewhere in the county by the end of 2019, according to Rep. McCarthy. The shelter is expected to hold between 100 and 150 homeless people.
Leaders with the Bakersfield Homeless Shelter also announced Wednesday they are expanding the BHS street ambassador program. As part of that program, paid workers wash areas where homeless camp out and pick up trash left behind by homeless.
Congressman McCarthy said Wednesday’s roundtable discussion and action plan is a step in the right direction.
“This is a problem for the whole community, so collectively, this is where today’s action is going to help longterm. Collectively, everybody’s working together, and I think that is going to help.”
Louis Gill, Bakersfield Homeless Center Executive Director, said something must be done before the situation becomes any worse.
“Everybody will tell you, ‘I would really like to see more services, just not near me,'” he said. “We’re past that folks. There is a crisis outside, and there are incredibly poor people that are hurting. We have to do something to help.”
Goh and Maggard pledged support on a local level, while Fong said he is utilizing state resources to help combat the issue.
“Inaction is not an option,” he said. “We are going to begin starting today, not only to bring emergency beds, but also wrap around services including drug treatment, mental health services, and behavioral health services.”
“[We will] work with law enforcement to clean up the streets and to provide services so that individuals who are currently on the streets will have a better life, and will get the help that they need,” Fong continued.
Leaders with the Bakersfield Homeless Center and Mission at Kern County announced last year they intend to each add 40 beds to their inventory. Earlier this year, Bakersfield voters passed measure N, which in part, will fund rapid response teams throughout the city.
Meanwhile, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer also spoke at the meeting. Leaders have looked to San Diego as a success to address the homeless epidemic that is rampant across the state.