City council

An overflow crowd of attendees bow their heads in prayer before a Bakersfield City Council meeting.

The local conversation about homelessness took a decidedly angry turn at Wednesday's Bakersfield City Council meeting.

At the meeting, in which the council heard a comprehensive update on the city's plan to address homelessness, many residents — most claiming to be connected to Bakersfield's downtown — expressed anger at the number of homeless individuals in the city and the negative effects of their presence.

"These people are not homeless, they are walking around with stolen merchandise called shopping carts," one speaker said during public comments. "These are criminals and they need to be dealt with as criminals."

Many in the crowd echoed the speaker's sentiment, saying they were fed up with what they described as a criminal element that has overrun the local homeless community.

The meeting came a day after the Kern County Board of Supervisors took the first step toward creating a new homeless shelter near downtown Bakersfield, north of Golden State Avenue.

The city, too, is looking into creating a homeless shelter that is meant to house individuals who cannot otherwise gain admittance into the existing shelters in the city.

The city's shelter, as well as the county's, is expected to be a "low barrier" shelter, which means it will accept individuals that need places to store their belongings, are in relationships, or have pets.

With a large influx of homeless individuals on the streets, city officials say the need is great for more beds to be dedicated to homelessness.

"We know we need it now, maybe yesterday," Assistant City Manager Jacqui Kitchen said during a presentation, referring to the city's plan to build a new shelter. "But we also know 150 beds isn't enough."

The city had initially considered creating a shelter near the county's proposed location, at Weill Park. But after local property owners voiced concerns about the potential for increased crime, city officials pulled back from the site.

Kitchen said that after a comprehensive search, the city had identified several sites which would be suitable for a new shelter.

But many people at the meeting did not seem pleased with the potential of the new shelter.

"Folks are angry," said Bakersfield Homeless Center Executive Director Louis Gill. He stressed the importance of the new shelter, adding, "if we want people to go somewhere, there has to be somewhere to go."

At Wednesday's meeting, the council authorized the city to select a site and draft a purchase agreement within the next 30 days.

The city also authorized the city to pursue a contracts with private security companies to patrol parts of the city that frequently deal with break-ins and vandalism.

The new contracts are meant to provide some relief to business owners who have been hit with a string of well-publicized incidents.

"It's not lost on us how frustrated you are and how frustrated we all are," said Councilmember Andrae Gonzales. He added that the city hoped to address the issue with the new shelter in addition to other measures.

(39) comments

Ellen Pace

Another thing Los Angeles County Sheriff Department does pull up twice a week in a clearly marked van in the parking lot at Lowe's on Panama Lane. Between 5 am and 6 am. I have seen them pull in open the door hand out a 75.00 check and after the van empties the people that got out walk off in different directions with a plastic bag of stuff and a check. So yes they do drop off homeless people in Bakersfield.

yorkies2014

its a governmental prayer meeting......just creepy...I thought the Supreme leader was going to round up these poor souls and place them in empty government warehouses and have the EPA arrest the folks who were doing number 1 and 2 in open public spaces....

Ellen Pace

I try to help the homeless with food blankets water and what do I get in return? They break in my car steal everything in it . Then they steal my security camera from my carport by prying boards away from where it was located. They steal packages from my mail box. They sleep in my carport and leave all the trash they have with them. I have offered to help them with getting help to get off drugs and help getting a job. They do not want to work. They do not want to get off drugs. Why bother when they can steal everything. They have no fear of being punished for stealing as the police never show up when you call them. If a person really wants to change their homelessness there are resources. Building shelters are not going to help if you don't have drug treatment, job training or other things to help people get off drugs and get to work. I quit helping people because all they do in return is break into my car and steal from me.

Moardeeb

Just weirdness today. In signing up at a gym. While I'm with the employee, a homeless person comes in the front door, gesturing and talking to himself, smoking what looked like a joint. The employee rushed over as he made his way further inside. Asked him what he wanted. He said something unintelligible and walked out. 2 hours later I'm at Rosa's eating. I have a table by the door. A sweaty guy with no shirt and a backpack comes in and asks for a drink. They nicely give him one. He grabs some toothpicks and leaves.



Just within 2 hours. This stuff never used to happen.

SonoftheKRV

In all fairness, it would behoove all of us to learn the legal definition of the word "crime" since we like to throw that word around so much. In order for something to be a crime, it must have certain elements. There must be a man or woman who is the victim of loss or harm, a corporate fiction cannot be a victim because they cannot be a real party at interest, and there must be intent to cause the victim loss or harm. A grocery store cannot be a victim. Can you put Vons or Albertsons on a witness stand and have them point to the man or woman who caused them harm or loss? No.

If someone is using drugs, who is the victim? There is no victim.

I don't condone or endorse theft or drug use, but the simple fact is that most of the "crimes" everyone is complaining about are by definition not crimes.

Funny how everyone is so up in arms about someone defeating on a doorstep or shopping cart theft enough to initiate an angry town hall meeting, but have NO problem at all with the police gunning down our unarmed kids and unarmed grandfathers with dimentia at a rate higher than any other county in the US. Where the devil are our priorities, people? When the police are not doing their job and are setting national records for killing the populace, we want to rise up against the homeless for simply existing and demand their removal from society????? Makes a LOT of sense.

For less than 10% of 1 year's worth of military spending, money spent on weapons of war designed to kill and maim your fellow man, the United States government could purchase outright a home for EVERY SINGLE CITIZEN IN THE COUNTRY, NOT JUST THE HOMELESS, BUT EVERY SINGLE CITIZEN IN THE COUNTRY. Homelessness could be solved overnight but the people you and I elect to public office are making the conscious choice to do NOTHING about it. It appears that it is ourselves we should be angry with for allowing our public servants to run amok.

And let's not forget the fact that these homeless people we wish to eliminate from our ranks are our fellow countrymen, Americans just like you and me. Where is the honor in attacking and demonizing the weakest people in society?

She Dee

SonoftheKRV...In case you haven't noticed, most of these people have no honor. That's why they bow their heads in shame at the start of every meeting.

Nevermind

I take your message to heart, but your legal definitions and math are shaky.

You can commit a crime against Albertsons by simply stealing a Snickers bar. The "victims" of these "crimes" are the shareholders. Not sure what you mean by that, maybe I am misinterpreting.

As for taking 10% of military spending, (which I myself have promoted as a move for helping Vets), and buying a house for every American, you might want to revisit that. There are approximately 125 million households in this nation. The average cost of a home is about 225,000. Multiply that and you could take and use that 10 % of the military budget, or 70 billion bucks, and you'd be about 23 trillion short. It would take 3 centuries to pay for all the houses. If you were to buy a house for "every single citizen", the price would go up to over 70 trillion.

Having said that, I agree with your sentiment. Except for solving homelessness overnight, you can no more solve that problem overnight than you can solve drug addiction or PSTD overnight. It's just not that simple. But absolutely, we aren't trying hard enough and it's a distasteful subject for our politicians who have made running for the job more important than the job itself.

SonoftheKRV

@pancho3 yeah, it was good enough for our other fellow Americans of Japanese descent during WW2, too, wasn't it?

Nevermind

It's a societal problem few cared about until it became annoying. It's a mixture of Vets with PSTD, young drug addicts, alcoholics, and just mentally disturbed people. There is no one pronged attack that will solve the problem, there are too many different stories. There is criminality, but mostly it's mental health and addiction. Instead of stealing money from the military to build a wall, use it to fix Vets in a bad place. Instead of giving Chevron a 2 billion dollar tax break, use that money for mental health and rehab. Chevron can make it on their 15 billion dollar profit. It's not going to solve everyones maladies, but it would have an impact. Not everyone is mentally capable of personal responsibility, and helping may not be fruitful for many, but prison is no less expensive to taxpayers than trying to get them turned around.

You might call that socialism, I call it good sense and moralistic, regardless of ones personal spiritual belief.

Marsharut

It’s not that they don’t deserve a place to live. It’s the fact they break the law. They go through our trash cans, break into houses that are empty and occupied. We don’t owe them anything there are jobs. Most are on welfare and get checks from county and we are paying them for it. I’m tired of having to pay more for security because of this.

Without Walls

I help run a weekly program in Oildale that provides showers, clothing, toiletries and food for the homeless in our area. This morning, while they were waiting for their turn in the showers I had a nice discussion with a group of regulars. I broached this subject with them along with the concept of a new low barrier shelter for them. Please allow me to share a few thoughts that came out of this conversation.



When I broached the subject of the low barrier shelter the majority of the group were skeptical that it would do any good. Most were confused as to what low barrier meant and all of them said that they would be reluctant to give it a try. Their reasoning is that shelters are part of a system run against them and are an institution that they are afraid of. I asked them what they would like instead. The answer from the homeless: "We just want a spot to put up a tent, a place to go to the bathroom and just enough rules to keep it quiet, clean and safe."



I asked what rules they could accept in a campground. They said "no trash piles, no loud noise and no criminal activity."



It is surprising that many of the homeless want the same things as everyone else and just want a place to call home.



I asked about the people who refer to all homeless as criminals and addicts. They all agree that many homeless are addicts; even some in our discussion group. They all wish they could quit, but believe that there is no way out of it. They argue, however, that not all homeless or addicts are thieves and that most of the thieves are not homeless.



Of the 30 or so homeless people we had today, only one lady had a shopping cart. She uses it to keep her two small dogs in. She told me that she got it from behind a dumpster and did not take it from a store. The group agreed that most of the homeless who have large piles of stuff in shopping carts are in some way mentally ill. Robert told me "man it's just crazy to keep all your junk in a cart; it just makes you into a target for people to mess with you." Most of them agreed that it's safer to go light and not attract too much attention.



In general it was agreed that the homeless are just as sick of the way things are as everyone else. They are tired of being lumped into one category and treated like criminals just because they don't have a home. They want what we all want; a safe place to stay, a hot shower, a hot meal and someone to listen to them and care a little.

clsoca

I watched this City Counsel meeting with the family and we all were stunned how our Mayor looked down upon at all the citizens in attendance to speak about homelessness. She gave the impression she was the Queen and the speakers were Peasants. She may need to be replaced having that type of demeanor.

Countrycommonsense

I agree she needs to come down off the pedistal and go out and speak to the people who are the rarget of this meeting in the first place...and see for her high and mighty self whats going on ...or she needs to contact carl sparks and get a few lessons in being a positive in the community and interacting with the residents of kern whether they have homes or not

DesertSon

I have friends who own small businesses downtown, and they aren’t thrilled by the homeless, but their biggest complaint is that, when the BPD is called about vandalism or business burglary (or illegal dumping, etc.), the BPD DOESN’T SHOW UP! I’m talking about businesses within 20 blocks of the police station. This is more a lack of bothering to enforce current laws than a homeless problem. I know that there are residential sections of the city that get quick coverage, but businesses out around Kentucky and Union tend to only see uniforms at lunchtime.

BobPrange

I get it people are angry. I wish the city and county would work together to come up with a collaborative long-term solution. Come together to develop a “one-stop” like the PATHMALL in Los Angeles. The first floor would be set aside for vital services such as mental health, clinic, substance abuse, legal aid, homeless court, employment, transportation, human services, specialized services for Veterans, case management, etc.. The top floors would be “low-barrier” transitional housing. All services under one roof. It sounds to me like the city and county are still fragmented (county to build shelter, city to build separate shelter later on). The community needs the county and city to come together, work together, and start thinking long-term solutions. The band-aids are not working.

Countrycommonsense

La county needs to stop paying the homeless to take a one way trip here where they drop them off at the lowes on rosedale and white lane several times a week!!!

Moardeeb

Ok I've heard these rumors but never read anything that proves it.

Ellen Pace

They are not rumors I have seen the LA County Sheriff Dept van pull up at lowes on Panama Lane and let a van full of people out. I talked to one guy that got out of the van and he said they give them a choice downtown LA and no money or Bakersfield and a 75.00 check.

Ellen Pace

I agree they do it at the lowes on Panama lane too. I have witnessed it and talked to one of the people that got out of the van and they told me they give them a 75.00 check too

Pancho3

A 1000 acre tent city in the middle of the Mojave Desert with medical facilities, cafeteria, drug cessation and mental health programs, etc. Good enough for our volunteer military forces and good enough for homeless wanderers.

Abby

👍👍👍👍

DesertSon

You know that this is the direction we’re headed, right? In reality, “if it’s good enough for detaining refugees/illegal immigrants, it’s good enough for others who don’t pull their weight in society.” Such a tent city would still require a police force (probably at a higher per capital ratio than our “law-abiding” no-homeless cities. Probably need a fence around it, to keep the homeless wanderers from wandering into the desert on their own and dying, else we’d have a liability issue. Maybe we can figure a way to take away their citizenship, so they don’t have a right to free movement. I think you’re on to something!

rtguy53

I love sarcasm, DesertSon.

DesertSon

Thanks, rtguy53. Sometimes I’m too subtle for the sarcasm to come across (said nobody to me, ever)

JR

I tried to make a comment but got a message that said I needed to remove profanities first. I did not have one "profanity" in my entire comment, so I couldn't change it.The only word that could be considered off was, "undead". I really hate censorship.

REMUDA

At least the problem(s) are being addressed. The CITIZEN RESIDENTS are the tax-payers who are most affected by the "homeless". Dad always said . . . "Do ya wanna grow up to be a mule . . . ?" If these "homeless" really want a "home", how 'bout some effort on their part? Did anyone speak on their behalf . . . if they have 'anyone' . . . ? Are they willing to offer physical help to solve their own dilemma? The so-called "Low-Barrier" shelter (allows pets) is "TEMPORARY" as the homeless seek better circumstances, jobs and locations via city services and counseling. Perhaps some of those many existing 'vacant stores' could be instant 'repositories/dormitories'.

Muster up, troops!

Rebelgypsy661

Oh, I have a lot to say about this. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is one paycheck and one disaster away from being homeless. What do you do if you lose a job, don't have family or friends to stay with, and although you're doing everything you can to find a new job, you haven't gotten one yet? Where do you go? People need to really think about that. Every homeless person has a story, not all are criminals, not all are on drugs. Bakersfield is a joke compared to other cities in regards to the resources available to the homeless. I know this for a fact, because once upon a time, I had a very good job and worked 24 years with a company that sold out ...I didn't have family or friends to stay with, nor any savings because I'd spent my savings to try to save my butt. I never imagined "homelessness" would happen to me. It only happened to druggies, criminals, to people who didn't want to work. I was homeless for 3 years. Now I managed to claw my way back up, far from what I "used to be", but I have a job again, I have a home again and I thank God everyday. Ive experienced being homeless firsthand and met some amazing people, both who had homes and those who did not. I have to say, parents with those fancy 93314 zip codes....lock your prescriptions up because while you're turning your nose up at homelessness, your kid is probably stealing your Rx and drinking your booze. Think of all the high profile murder cases....almost all of the murderers were brought up in middle class homes, etc. How often do you see a murder committed by a homeless person? You can hide dirty laundry behind closed doors....the people who are so quick to judge probably have the most to hide. Who is anyone to judge? We do need more resources available in this county. Unless you have a bunch of

kids,. are mental, or minority, there's very little help available and you're on your own.

rtguy53

Thoughtful response! You know, of course, that you’re one o’ them liberal, socialist whackos that the majority of citizens in Kern County hold in disdain. Good for you!

Countrycommonsense

I Applaud You. And Know exactly where your coming from after 28 yrs with my spouse. Working owners of a Small Gardening and Landscape Mait business..for 24 yrs ..and trying to be a positive in my community always raising my kids with respect and values ..Also teaching them to care about our fellow american regardless of color or race .whether that person be in need if a lil help being brike down on the roadway. or just needing a bite to eat and a cool drink from someone with an encourageing comment tiwards them and the unfortunate curcumstances they was going through

...NEVER DID I EVER THINK IN MY 40 PLUS YEARS ON THIS EARTH.EVER ONCE STOP TO THINK I WOULD BECOME HOMELESS WITH NO ONE TO ACTUALLY HELP..But Unfortunately I came Home Dec 2013 to Find My Spouse Passed of Accidental death in our rented home...beyond the ptsd i now suffer from finding him ..I Became homeless with out anything to fall back on because i had wuit our gardening business that he had left 6 yrs prior to passing to work for mmi oilfield service and had lost his job due to wrongful termination 6 months prior becuz as a cement pumper his rigs centrifugal clutch had went .out while in process of capping a well...in santa maria..he was devastated. At his termination letter that made him fulky liable for a mechanical issue he was not responsible for...beyond that we raised two children here and had not been married ...we was supposed to be married after christmas 2013 finally but unfortunately he passed on the 7 if dec 2013...so i couldnt even get widows benefits becuz calif dies nit recignuze common law marriage (but does recognize life partners) so all the above and his neglect to oay the monthly payment in the life insuranve pokicy i had personally paid for 14 yrs prior to his wrongful termination i found myself losing ever thing with no channel to even help...i have applied for many jobs but always find the same response at every interview because i refuse to leave the fact that i owned and operated a small mait.business .off of my job application which is honestly my work history of almost my entire adult life ...i get the well im sorry but upon going over your job history its our regret that we. Cannot hire you because you are over qualified for this position....????Are you Serious....

Mrknowitall

Oh good folks of Bako. Now your heads in prayer; then attack your fellow man. But for the grace of God go ye. No shame. All lined up for the figurative lynching of the mentally ill. Yes. They make up the bulk of the chronically homeless. You voted to close their mental facilities; now you’re crying crocodile tears. “Woe is me”. Shame on you. Those who are not chronic are meth addicts. That’s it. Plain and simple. Arrest and rehab the addicts... or jail em if they fail repeatedly; can’t justify failing indefinitely.

Lil bit of feces on the ground? Judge Stuebbe posted do like in France. A stainless steel constantly showering and washing walls n floors on a timer. Solves that. Do it or stop whining. Costs a few grand. Place a few around town. BIG diff immediately

Oh—Private security for downtown businesses on the taxpayer dimes. What?! That’s what we pay the cops to do. If they are not doing it MAKE them or get a new chief. Fire some folks. They’ll patrol for sure. Bako must have unlimited funds. Private security—or typically giving cronies the security contractors. Graft. Not surprised. Just like City/county took over Homeless Coalition. Now their buddies get the jobs n less money for the needy. Tammany Hall got nothing on Bako.

rtguy53

🥵

palooloo

"criminals need to be dealt with as criminals" wooowww. how much do you want to bet this person has broken the law many times driving, j walking, etc all the time yet doesn't get called a criminal on a daily basis. Empathy comes from understanding or trying to understand what the other person is dealing with. It shouldn't have to be earned. We shouldn't both trying to please the community on the location and just plant it wherever and deal with it, making the most to better the community and the people who live around there.

rtguy53

👍

ISpy

The experience of empathy is related to the amount that the cause of trouble is determined to be inside - or outside - of the individual's control. Anger, here, arises from belief that it is the homeless person's own fault that he or she is in that situation. Compassion arises from belief that it is not the individual's (direct) doing.



A system which addresses both actualities would be ideal. The ones who *can* should be expected to improve, and the ones who *can't* need our indefinite assistance.



Sorting them out is the first task. Holding those who *can* be accountable for such is the second. Figuring out ways to provide for those who *can't* is the third. Lumping them all together is just an indefinite drain on taxpayers' resources.

Boris25

It's hard to be empathetic when people are stealing from you, defecating and urinating at your place of business and there is nothing you can do about it because the city/county/state will do nothing about it.

R1313

Haven't the City/county/state been trying?

But NIMBY is a thing.

You want people to stop defecating, give them places to do so.

It's not rocket surgery.

R1313

Defecating on your property.

Sorry, coffee hasn't kicked in

I was also utilising my toilet.

vladysgirl16

Exactly! How can you expect someone to be compassionate for a person who is clearly unwilling to respect the law. Sleeping on a park bench because you have no where to go and breaking into a business to vandalize or steal are very different things.

She Dee

vladysgirl16- It's a well known fact in the streets that if you get treated like a peon, you get even with that person. If that's not possible (maybe they drove away), you target the place where they came from. That'll teach em. It's a bit of a warped sense of balance/imbalance in the streets & the longer a person is out there...the higher the chances are that they will SNAP! That's why all the vandalism is taking place. It's not just in Bakersfield. It's in just about every large city in California. Once upon a time, people were put in jail when they threw a brick into a store window. Not any more. They just get ignored because the Police don't have enough staff members to respond in reasonable time to catch them & if they do, they have no room in their jails for "petty" crimes of the day! It's not petty when you have a small business. Build some shelters with beds for the chronically homeless "offenders" already! Criminalize them if you must.....but get them someplace to rest & get their heads straight again. We treat stray animals better than we treat the homeless these days. SHAME ON THE HATERS WHO DO NOTHING BUT COMPLAIN.

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