The city of Bakersfield has selected a tentative location for a new homeless center it hopes will alleviate the homeless “crisis” facing city streets.

Weill Park, located at the intersection of Q Street and Golden State Highway, has been tagged by city officials as the potential location for the new shelter.

The new facility would be constructed using easily-assembled material, and city officials hope to use the site for around five years, tearing it down and using the property for another purpose after the homeless crisis has receded.

Although a new site could still be chosen, the city hopes to construct between 100 to 200 beds at the proposed shelter, and use it as a hub to connect people experiencing homelessness to social services.

The project has a budget of $4 million, but no housing designs or timeline have been released. Measure N funds will be used to fund the project, along with other homelessness efforts initiated by the city. 

The facility will provide “low-barrier” housing for homeless individuals, providing temporary shelter until more permanent solutions can be found.

“My goal is to see that we have more beds available, so that we can move people off the streets and into shelter, and then get them connected to services and get them into long term supportive housing,” said City Councilmember Andrae Gonazales, whose ward encompasses Weill Park. “This is a problem we see throughout the city. So it is important for us as a community to come together and support this emergency shelter.”

At a Planning Commission meeting Thursday evening, commissioners voted to recommend a zoning change to Weill Park that would allow a shelter to be built on the property.

The current zoning prevents the shelter from being constructed. Following the Planning Commission’s vote, the Bakersfield City Council will take up the issue at a future meeting.

“The community clearly needs something like this, and this is intended to help be one of the tools in our tool chest to address this growing issue,” said Assistant City Manager Jacqui Kitchen, who is overseeing the project. “We’ve heard loud and clear that we need additional space.”

In a comprehensive survey of the county’s homeless population in January, the Kern County Homeless Collaborative found that homelessness had increased by 50 percent when compared to the same survey in 2018.

City officials have said both the Bakersfield Homeless Center and The Mission at Kern County are “full.”

The proposed shelter is meant to serve individuals who cannot stay at either of the two shelters for a variety of reasons that could include the individual owning a pet or engaging in substance abuse.

“This is intended to be an interim step to get people into housing,” Kitchen said.

Recreation and Parks Director Dianne Hoover said the city would work to replace the park by opening a new park in another area.

She said Weill Park had not been used by the public in the last decade. With no amenities, and a relatively small number of residences in the immediate area, few people make the trip to the park as it is.

One person spoke in opposition of the project during the meeting. Victoria Martinez said she wanted to make sure the city found a site for a new park since it was taking away an existing park for the neighborhood.

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

(8) comments

Cracker

Drove by Camp Okihi last night. My 15 year old grandson asks, "why don't they put the homeless out here?"

scottybob

What about the dilapidated Eastgate Mall in the Northeast? It just sold for $10 dollars. The city could buy it for $20, the sellers would double their investment. And when it gets too small from overpopulation, there is a huge parking lot for the overflow. All they have to bring is cardboard boxes, and I'll bet plenty of them are available at Big Lots.

PSNolen

Great comments. As a former neighbor to Helen and Larry Weill, I can attest they'd be horrified by this scheme. Homelessness is a scam. 90% are there because of addiction, not mental illness. And the ones who do suffer from mental issues WILL NOT get the help they need in an overcrowded facility by an overwhelmed staff. This city has got to stop letting the homeless dictate our lives. Our law enforcement ignores them, our D A. and their underlings refuse to prosecute, and now we are rewarding them at the loss of our property and parks. An ABSOLUTE WASTE of money and resources. And a terrible way to treat the taxpayers near this park. This city's leaders and planners just took a huge, steaming dump on every one of them. Every property just became worthless! And they are probably NOT going to sue the city for this terrible idea, which they should. Disgraceful. And the #2 reason I am moving out of SoCal, and out of urban areas. #1 is the lack of law enforcement, by both our police force and District Attorneys Office. They encourage homelessness, animal abuse, and juvenile delinquents. And now, our city leaders are encouraging more of it with this scam.

Cracker

I read this and I am fine with having a place for the homeless to gather as long it is away from residences and schools. But it also takes me back to years ago when there was a park at Baker and Sumner where the homeless gathered and were fed by churches on the site then they kicked out the churches and the park was removed because of the mess. Now we see them camped out along the buildings on Sumner and Baker Streets. Then there was the location on Union Avenue that used to be a motel and there was a brick wall they camped behind. The brick wall was torn down and they spread even more throughout Bakersfield. I do agree with the one being torn down by a preschool.

Peter Roth

City Hall North will be the new site for the Rescue Mission

scottybob

A bit short sighted I'll bet. 1). The homeless problem won't be solved by this building or concentration of service providers in 5 , 10, or 50 years. Yup, if global warming takes over, more and more people will be homeless, because PG&E, and others will continue to make us pay for their errors in planning and the population goes into bankruptcy, too. 2). There will be more people screaming "we got to do something!" as the problem grows. By the time they get this thing built, it will be less than half the size needed, and the costs will triple. (High-speed rail anyone?)

7nickfish

Don't feed the animals. I know that sounds terrible but there is a point to be made. We cater to those that have decided for what ever reason that living on the street allows them not to work, not to worry about things they used to worry about. Yes there are those that need help but the majority have found that being on drugs and living a life free of the pressures they once had is at least equal to having a home to worry about or going to work and performing day in and day out. Simply continuing to give give give does not solve anything and in fact it encourages behavior that allows for petty crimes to be overlooked. Don't feed the animals has a deeper meaning than giving a bear one slice of bread-it is because EVERYONE/CITY is giving and it fosters the attitude that we are helping when in fact we are NOT

JR

When I hear a politician or a government official repeat cliches like, "just one of our tools in our tool chest," I feel both angry and hopeless because those types of easy throw-away cliches usually means that that person is not serious about actually doing what they intimate they intend to do. If the person in charge of this important project, not only for the homeless but the entire city, isn't capable or isn't interested enough to speak out in clear, honest, direct language instead of worthless cliches, then it doesn't give me much hope that she is capable of handling this job in a compassionate, intelligent, and forward thinking way. In other words, just another waste of a few million dollars because the right person was not chosen for the job.

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