The city of Bakersfield has announced a second possible location for a new 150-bed homeless shelter, sparking a potential fight over the placement of the facility.
The new site, located at 601 Brown St., is three blocks away from the Bakersfield Homeless Center and 1½ miles from Calcot Ltd., the original location proposed by the city.
The city is in the midst of purchasing a property that can be used for emergency beds for homeless individuals. For the past few months, city officials have had a difficult time coming up with a place to put the shelter.
At first, the city said Weill Park north of downtown would be the best spot before a public outcry nixed the option.
Then, the city said it wanted to purchase a 7.2-acre office complex from local cotton cooperative Calcot before another public outcry prompted the City Council to direct officials to find an alternative spot.
After a citywide search, officials have narrowed the list of possible locations to two. The decision will ultimately be made at a council meeting in late January.
Although the city says Calcot could still ultimately be the location of the shelter, the city said on Thursday that the 1.9-acre warehouse site on Brown Street was also under consideration.
After being criticized for shutting out the public during its Calcot proposal, the city will hold two public meetings this month to receive comments on the locations.
The first meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Jerusalem Church, located at 924 Cottonwood Road.
The second meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Dec. 16 at MLK Community Center, located at 1000 S. Owens St.
At the last meeting, when the council was on the verge of purchasing the Calcot office complex for $3.8 million, a large crowd of neighbors gathered to protest the sale.
Nearby residents said the shelter — which could eventually hold 450 beds and a police substation — would attract homeless individuals to the area and place nearby churches, schools and businesses at risk.
The Brown Street location threatens to impact the surrounding neighborhood even more than a shelter at Calcot would. Unlike Calcot, which is surrounded by industrial businesses on East Brundage Lane, the warehouse at Brown Street is directly across from houses.
“Brown Street, as a shelter site is very problematic,” said Ward 2 Councilman Andrae Gonzales. “First and foremost, it is right next to a residential community, where many of the homes are owner-occupied. This shelter, in the first conceit of the idea, we were looking for a location that was buffered from sensitive uses, and this Brown Street site doesn’t meet that criteria.”
Ward 2 already contains every other shelter bed in the city, he said, and is adding 80 more in the near future. Nevertheless, Gonzales said he did not want to get into which ward was shouldering the lion’s share of the city’s homeless crisis.
“It’s about how we design the shelter, the quality of services within the shelter, how we run the shelter that really matters the most,” he said.
Both shelters will be designed to limit their impacts on the surrounding area. The city will attempt to enact a “good neighbor policy” in whichever site it places the shelter.
Homeless experts say the city needs more shelter beds because current shelters are frequently filled to capacity. The new shelter will cater to individuals who do not seek entrance at existing facilities because those facilities do not allow people with pets, partners or excessive belongings.