City staff will brief the Bakersfield City Council on efforts the city is taking to mitigate homelessness during its Wednesday meeting.
Among potential options the city may implement to address the growing issue is the use of private security in areas of the city with the highest property crimes and the hiring of a team to clean up human waste downtown.
In a report to the council, the City Manager’s Office said a variety of responses would be necessary to deal with a rising homelessness crisis.
An annual survey of Kern County’s homeless population, known as the point-in-time count, revealed 1,330 homeless individuals within the county in January, with 80 percent residing in metro Bakersfield.
The number represented a 50 percent increase in homelessness compared to the same count the previous year.
Of those counted, 643 were unsheltered.
To deal with complaints of residents and businesses related to homelessness, the city has already implemented several mitigation measures.
Three “rapid response” teams have been formed to quickly handle cleanup efforts related to homelessness and vandalism. Using new employees hired as a result of the funds provided by the recent 1 percent sales tax increase, the teams typically respond within a day to complaints generated by citizens.
The city has also provided funds for 40 new beds at both the Bakersfield Homeless Center and the Mission at Kern County.
But the council will consider additional options at its next meeting.
Two of those options include the hiring of private entities to take on issues that have been the frequent subject of complaints over the last few months.
One initiative that could be taken on would see the city enter into contract with a professional cleaning service or with the “Clean Team” that operates through the Bakersfield Homeless Center to clean up downtown areas that have been dirtied by, among other things, human feces.
The city says recent complaints regarding the waste have been made, and the new contract would address such issues.
Numerous businesses have reported break-ins and vandalism in events that have been widely publicized. In the latest example, Luigi’s was broken into last Tuesday and sprayed with a fire extinguisher.
To combat thefts and burglaries in areas that have been frequently targeted, the Bakersfield Police Department could deploy private security details for patrols.
The department has already been exploring its ability to use crime data to direct the security details.
The City Council would need to approve both contracts before the city moves forward with them.
No cost estimate was included in the city’s report to the council.
The City Manager’s Office recommended the council approve the measures.
The council will also hear an update on the City Manager’s Office’s plan to install a low-barrier shelter somewhere in the city. A total of $4 million has already been approved for the shelter, which would provide housing for homeless individuals who otherwise cannot stay at other shelters in Bakersfield.
However, the city has yet to identify a location for the site, according to the report.