Kern County officials are proposing a low-barrier homeless shelter about a block away from a location the city of Bakersfield recently stepped back from after property owners raised concerns.
Situated on a county-owned site north of Golden State Avenue, between M Street and O Street, the 4.6 acre site could provide easily accessible shelter for about 150 homeless individuals.
The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the proposal Tuesday. The shelter, which would operate for a two-to-five year period, is expected to cost up to $2 million to construct and up to $1.5 million to operate.
If approved by the supervisors, the county would need to develop a funding plan. Potential options included in the proposal are grants and a potential partnership with the city.
“The urgency of the current gap in facilities for places for the downtown homeless population to shelter and receive services for permanent placement is clear,” the County Administrative Office wrote in the proposal. “This urgency supports the selection of this location as an immediate need for an indefinite period of time while other solutions are explored and implemented.”
A low-barrier shelter is meant to provide a place to sleep for homeless individuals who cannot otherwise be admitted to more strict homeless shelters. The county’s proposed site would also give homeless people temporary living facilities while they work with case workers to find more permanent solutions.
In June, Bakersfield officials moved forward with a plan to place a low-barrier shelter at Weill Park, just one block away from the county’s proposed location. However, business and property owners objected to the location, and the city soon decided to look for other options before asking the City Council to approve the site.
“This proposed site will not only re-purpose underutilized county property but is also an ideal location to provide transitional housing to our most vulnerable residents,” the county wrote in its proposal.
The county said in its proposal that the shelter would include portable toilets, individual storage lockers, portable showers and potentially laundry services.
A pet area and a spot for service providers to meet with clients is also expected to be included.
Supervisor Mike Maggard prompted the county’s proposal. He recently met with Rep. Kevin McCarthy and other Bakersfield leaders in an attempt to develop a centralized strategy for taking on the homeless crisis.
Maggard and Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh released a joint statement about the shelter on Thursday.
"Together we are excited for the opportunity to address the homeless crisis that is facing our community," the two leaders said in the statement. "The county and city will continue to work together to take action to keep our streets clean and safe and ensure that the homeless get the services they need. This is a positive step forward."