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Brundage Lane Navigation Center set to expand roughly a year after opening

20201021-bc-BrundageShelter

The Brundage Lane Navigation Center.

The Brundage Lane Navigation Center is set to grow a little over a year after its opening. The low-barrier homeless shelter has reached capacity, and Bakersfield officials say an expansion is needed to help scores of people who want to get off the streets, but have nowhere to go.

According to organizations who refer clients to the center, an average of 70 individuals are turned away each week due to the lack of space. To address the issue, the Brundage Lane facility will add roughly 100 beds over the next year.

The expansion focuses in particular on providing space for couples, those with pets and individuals needing medical attention, which are only lightly served by other shelters, if at all.

Homelessness has appeared to grow in Bakersfield over the last three years, leading to the need for extra space. In 2018, a survey of the city’s homeless population revealed 309 people living outside of shelter. The number ballooned to 842 in 2020, the last year for which comparable data was collected.

“We’ve been chronically under-resourced in terms of addressing homelessness for decades. So now we are trying to right that ship,” Anna Laven, executive director of the Bakersfield-Kern Regional Homeless Collaborative, said of the shelter expansion.

The new beds will add to the city’s ability to take people who are seeking permanent housing off the streets. A less than 1-percent vacancy rate reported in July has challenged many low-income renters.

“One of the things that is needed is certainly that temporary housing piece,” Laven continued. “When somebody calls into our coordinated entry system via 211, or Flood Ministries encounters somebody on the streets, we need a place to put them — not several months from now when an apartment may become available, we need a spot for them tonight.”

The Bakersfield City Council approved the expansion last week in a 5-2 vote with councilmen Ken Weir and Bruce Freeman dissenting. Improvements to the property include construction of two new men’s dorms, the expansion of the women’s and couple’s dorms, the expansion of the pet kennel from 15 to 50 spaces, a dining area expansion, an expanded guest parking lot and an outer park area.

Brundage Lane will also add a 20-bed recuperative care center designated for homeless individuals who need medical treatment following a stay in the hospital. Due to a change in state law, hospitals must have a place to release stabilized patients who need ongoing care, such as an IV drip. Those patients currently must remain in the hospital even though they do not necessarily need the full spectrum of care hospitals provide.

The new care center is meant to relieve the load on hospitals while providing a space for homeless individuals to recover from treatment.

“In so many cities, they’ll invest money toward homeless services, but their real agenda is to hide that problem,” said Brundage Lane Program Manager Theo Dues. “This expansion demonstrates that the city is invested in that and actually healing this problem in our city.”

He added the expansion demonstrated the city’s confidence in Mercy House, the third-party operator of the shelter.

The construction is projected to cost around $6 million, with all but around $1 million covered by state and federal funding. The rest is expected to be picked up by the Public Safety and Vital Services Measure, known as Measure N.

The expansion is expected to increase the operational cost of running the facility from roughly $3.2 million to around $5.7 million. However, the shelter’s operational budget was not included in the city’s approval. The $2.5 million increase in the operational cost of the facility is expected to be discussed at a later date.

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.

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