Faced with mounting public concern and an uptick in homelessness, the Kern County Board of Supervisors held a community meeting Monday to discuss how to address the issue.

Their conclusion?

“We’re going to need a bigger boat,” said Bill Walker, director of Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services.

But whether there's money to build a bigger boat remains an unanswered question.

A standing-room-only crowd listened as county leaders debuted a new plan to end homelessness in 10 years.

Called Home At Last, the plan takes a multi-faceted approach to the homeless issue by addressing the economic and social reasons a person may end up homeless as well as trying to mitigate the affordable housing shortage in Kern County.

A major part of the plan calls for the county to add 10,470 new beds in affordable housing over ten years. A recent report from the California Housing Partnership Corporation said Kern County would need 30,068 affordable rental homes to meet existing demand for affordable housing. And the Housing Authority of Kern County currently faces a wait list of around 13,000 for low-income housing.

Recently, construction of affordable housing has decreased because state and federal funding sources have dried up. By making more affordable housing available, and by providing counseling to formerly homeless people housed in those units, the collaborative hopes to cut down on the homeless numbers.

The only problem is the cost.

“The plan is good,” Walker said. “But we need more money and we need more funds.”

The Kern County Homeless Collaborative would have to apply for state and federal funds to accomplish many of its goals.

Yet hope remained.

“I believe this step is one of many steps,” said Supervisor Mike Maggard. “But I believe we can tackle this.”

With 134,278 homeless people living in California, according to the Kern County Homeless Collaborative, nearly one third of homeless people in the United States live in the Golden State.

Last year, the state experienced a 13.7 percent increase in homelessness, with Kern County seeing a 9 percent increase.

The boost in the Kern County numbers comes at the end of a long decline in the homeless population. The Homeless Collaborative reports that homelessness within the county has decreased by 40 percent in the last decade. That decrease came at the end of a decades-long plan to reduce homelessness in the county.

At the meeting, several county departments reported coming into contact with homelessness each day. Officials with the Kern County Code Compliance department said they spend $1 million annually due to the impacts of homelessness.

Sheriffs deputies respond daily to locations around to county because local residents have complained about homeless people. However, deputies sometimes cannot do anything if a homeless individual hasn't committed a crime or doesn't want help.

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

(8) comments

Vladdy

Yeah, just throw money at it. That fixes problems all the time. Cater to them, they will come.

Fram Smith

HEY REMUDA,
SINCE YOU DON'T LIVE IN BAKERSFIELD, AS YOU STATED IN AN EARLIER POST, HOW DO THEY HANDLE THE HOMELESS PROBLEM IN THE CITY YOU LIVE IN AND WHAT COUNTRY DO YOU LIVE IN?

clsoca

These people have absolutely no clue about the homeless. I have a close relative who is homeless and he has a home to go to. However he chooses to be homeless so he can slam his heron at night and have no accountability in his life. I see him sometimes at the gas stations on California and Stockdale panhandling and I always remind him he has a home to go to. But he always says he's fine. He use to be in and out of jail instead of living on the streets but AB109, propositions 47 & 57 ended that revolving door lifestyle. So now he chooses to live on the streets, kinda like the hippies of the 1960s. It's a lifestyle. When you talk to him you think he's a mental case but he's not.....he's an addict and his drugs mean more to him than anything on the planet including a clean comfortable home. He currently lives behind the Bed Bath & Beyond dumpster.

REMUDA

Direct flights to Guadalajara, Mexico? TBD. In 2003 the county borrowed $13.2 million to help build the William M. Thomas Terminal at Meadows Field. Space available.

https://www.bakersfield.com/news/hopes-for-new-airport-terminal-grounded/article_75732fbb-809a-5530-a5c6-44e86b264c45.html

Semper Fi . . .!!!!!

REMUDA

Vagrancy laws exist. Panhandling laws exist. Empty hangars at Bill Thomas International Air Park (aka Meadows Field) exist. Gather 'em up, bus 'em there, check their stats and profiles (former home addresses). Deal with it with emergency and discretionary funds all BOS's have. Now, not later, as we continue to get a penny here, a penny there sales tax, as well as that extreme 'gas tax'. Remember, Pot is not legal and dealers don't have bank accounts. Just thought I'd throw that in for good measure.

Semper Fi!

GaryJohns

Here's the plan. Don't feed them, don't house them. They will leave. Why would they leave if you take care of all their needs? If you're feeling guilty, hand them a sandwich at the county line....

Vico17

Can I ask if these individuals who are now homeless here in kern county are home grown, or bused in from LA or SF? I've read recently those two cities are known to get rid of their homeless population partially by busing them out w a one-way ticket. Also, if you analyze the data, surveys, questionnaires when you study the homeless, what are the top reasons they end up in the streets? [rhetorical question].

REMUDA

in other words, as in Aerospace incidents and accidents, there is a "fault tree" to the root cause. The "Great Depression" had terms for all of this (nothing new). See "The Grapes Of Wrath" . . . no single answer . . . but almost . . .

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