20190406-bc-homeless (copy)

In this file photo, a homeless man who identified himself as God's son hangs out in an alley off Baker Street with his friend, Michelle Gates. The two have been good friends for over five years.

The Kern County Homeless Collaborative will soon restructure as both the city of Bakersfield and Kern County officials aim to take a greater role in homeless mitigation efforts.

Unprecedented levels of people have lost stable housing and taken to the streets in Kern County, and city and county officials hope their new efforts will reduce what is a daily annoyance for some and a life and death struggle for others.

“This is a crisis of epic proportions,” said County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop. “Everybody notices it, everybody is being affected by it. It’s affecting our quality of life, our economy, public safety. Our supervisors are hearing about it and people want something done.”

In response, the collaborative will create a new nonprofit agency funded by the city and the county.

The agency’s one and only goal will be to reduce homelessness throughout the county, and for the first time county officials and city staff will work together in what they hope will be a winning formula.

“This is really about eliminating silos and bringing the city and county to the table so that we can have a more clear and direct conversation with the service providers and other people who are working on the issue,” said Assistant City Manager Jacqui Kitchen. “None of us have all of the answers independently.”

While no concrete plans have been established for the new nonprofit – which doesn’t even have a name yet – the entity will take on many of the financial duties handled by the Homeless Collaborative, and it will function as a sounding board for new ideas.

The Homeless Collaborative, a loose collection of local agencies that handle homelessness issues, had previously functioned largely as a volunteer organization.

“Right now, we have a lot of really hard working, dedicated, people in the Homeless Collaborative, but we all have full time jobs,” said Louis Gill, CEO of the Bakersfield Homeless Center, which is a member of the collaborative.

He noted that the members of the collaborative could only dedicate a portion of their time to Collaborative efforts.

By forming a new nonprofit with its own executive director and three support staff, the collaborative hopes to make a significant change in how the county addresses homelessness.

“It’s as simple as this,” Gill said, “if we want things to be different, we have to do things differently.”

So far, details about the nonprofit’s activities have not been fully worked out.

Alsop said the costs could run around $500,000, split between the city, county and state and federal funding sources.

A new executive board will be created to oversee the nonprofit. Two board members will be appointed by the city, two from the county, four from the Homeless Collaborative, and one appointee from the board itself.

Over the next several months, the collaborative hopes to form the board as well as hire the new director and find a place for an office.

By the time the new staff is in place, the director will be expected to bring in new funding and new ideas for future homeless projects.

However, the public should not expect homelessness to disappear overnight.

“We’ve got to manage expectations,” said Carlos Baldovinos, executive director of The Mission at Kern County. “It’s not going to end homelessness. It’s not going to solve all the homeless issues that we’ve had, but I do believe that it is going to get a more targeted effort.”

Sam Morgen can be reached at 661-395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @smorgenTBC.

(4) comments

Inconvenient Truth

...and the Homeless-Industrial Complex grows another tentacle.

bakoreader

So the solution from the "experts" on homelessness in the City and County is to set up another bureaucracy, with more salaries to pay. They have to hire this board, find an office, which sounds like we are months away from any action from this new entity. The citizens of Kern County need work done NOW on homelessness! My neighborhood park is no longer a park. The tennis courts, basketball courts, benches, picnic tables and grass have all become temporary homeless shelters, with all the mess and shopping carts left behind. There are organiizations ALREADY in place in Bakersfield dealing with the homeless, why don't we give them this additional money to combat the rising homelessness issue, rather than starting from scratch with a new board?? I'm going to predict that there will be some old cronies appointed to on this board who have no experience working with the homeless, but have experience taking government jobs from their buddies. If this is what the "experts" have come up with, we are all in trouble as we deal with the homeless crisis.

Mrknowitall

Coincidence? As soon as $4M bucks landed from the state NOW both city and county jump in to control the money. Article says they never worked in tandem on homeless before. Watson conveniently left out the $4M. Great reporting. Greed n ego. “Leader” Mayor Groh lobbied for funds once Gov. said he was open to it. Now $ is here City n County magically become administrators. Hire their cronies and appoint Board majority. That is might rich. Have y’all no shame?! Heck no. 1st thing on agenda is spending on Exec-staff n Board (of no pay it’s the influence wielding that those who do the appointing retain). So the budget gets eaten up and the homeless get far less services. The “Coalition” did just fine spending n helping withOUT all the new structuring. So who just woke up one day and had the power to decide the “Coalition” would get taken over? The reporter left that part out. Appears the “Coalition” was just a fake and a temporary prop till the $ landed. Nice quite “transition” and everyone closed their eyes to the theft and malfeasance and cronyism that gobbled up resource dough for the vulnerable. Shame on you all!

Bushwikker

Agree with most of your points but I drive or walk around this city and have a hard time thinking the “coalition” did just fine. Over a 50% increase in homeless persons over the last year? Maybe this isn’t the right change but change is needed.

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