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High-speed rail, Homeless Center finalize long-awaited agreement

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Bakersfield Homeless Center CEO Louis Gill walks through the grounds of the center in this 2017 file photo. Many needs  — a gas line, the roof, the cooling system and a sewage line to name a few — have been going unmet because of uncertainty over when the California High-Speed Rail Authority would acquire the property, an issue that has been causing some financial donors to pause in their giving. That issue now seems to have been resolved.

The Bakersfield Homeless Center finally has the game plan in place it has been seeking for seven years.

The emergency shelter on East Truxtun Avenue, situated in the path of the state's bullet train project, has reached an agreement with the California High-Speed Rail Authority to acquire the property, paving the way for a new, expanded facility elsewhere in the city.

The agreement, finalized in October and announced Tuesday morning, will allow for the homeless center to stay where it is for up to five years while the moving process takes place.

Only after a new facility is determined, and plans developed, is the homeless center likely to benefit again from community donations that largely dried up once it became evident in 2012 that any capital improvements would go to waste.

"Longtime donors and supporters have been patiently waiting for an answer to our future," said Louis Gill, CEO of the Bakersfield Homeless Center, the only emergency shelter for homeless women, children, and families in the city. "We will now be able to start having those conversations. We are starting to make plans that will allow us to better serve those in need in our community.”

High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Brian Kelly said in a written statement that the agreement, along with other matching funds, will enable the homeless center to relocate to a newer, larger facility "that can better serve families in need in Bakersfield.”

“Bakersfield Homeless Center is an integral part of our community’s safety net for families and individuals in crisis,” Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh said in a press release announcing the agreement. "I applaud the California High Speed Rail Authority for following through on this agreement and providing resources for Bakersfield Homeless Center to continue these essential services."

One of those plans involves moving the BHC Job Development Program to a property on Union Avenue, according to the Homeless Center announcement. The Job Development program employs current clients as well as other hard to hire members of the community and helps them build professional maturity. Currently, the program employs 75 men and women on 14 crews working in places like the Kern County Animal Shelter, highway litter and landscaping cleanup, and downtown beautification. 86% of Crew members employed through the BHC Job Development program are now in their own homes with their spouses and children. That’s over 500 people who have been able to create a new legacy for themselves and their families.

The specifics are undetermined for when and where BHC’s new shelter for women and children will be, but Gill remains optimistic about the future. “We are beginning to put plans into action. In the next few years, expect to hear about many exciting changes coming from us," Gill said. "As we transition into this new phase, we are hopeful that this community will stand beside us as they’ve always done.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated to remove a sentence that was inadvertently attributed to Mayor Karen Goh.

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