Community leaders and state officials gathered for a roundtable discussion on homelessness Friday.
Organized by Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), the roundtable took place at the Kern County Housing Authority headquarters in central Bakersfield. It featured a presentation from Alicia Sutton, California deputy secretary of homelessness. Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh and 5th District Supervisor Leticia Perez were also in attendance.
Sutton shared how cities and counties in the valley can get a portion of state funding to address homelessness, specifically $650 million in grant funding through the homeless housing, assistance, and prevention program part of the 2019-2020 state budget.
“[I am] so happy that we were able to bring down the governor’s administration — the deputy secretary,” Salas said. “[She] can actually answer the questions that we have locally to make sure we’re accessing the millions of dollars available at the state to address homelessness. Everything from housing and even looking at mental health issues, and using a regional approach to actually deal with this issue,” he continued.
However, not everyone in attendance walked away convinced the governor’s budget will help combat homelessness.
“It seemed to me that the overall theme of today’s event was basically a money grab,” said Nate Ferrier, president of the Kings County Deputy Sheriff’s Association. “Everyone is wanting to get state money to combat homelessness, and in our opinion, it isn’t a housing crisis — not even a money issue. The state, they said earlier, spent $1 billion on homelessness, and it’s gotten worse. Throwing money at it is not going to solve the issue.”
During Governor Gavin Newsom’s last visit to Bakersfield, he encouraged local government leaders to apply for state funding on homelessness.
Leaders from the City of Bakersfield and County of Kern have said they plan to apply for funding.