The Kern County Homeless Collaborative has adopted a new 10-year plan to end homelessness in the county, and the Kern County Board of Supervisors has assigned a new coordinator to help get the job done.
At a meeting Tuesday, Jose Gonzalez was introduced to the board as the new coordinator of homelessness in the county for the countywide homeless initiative. He started his new position Monday, moving from his previous position as the county’s fair housing coordinator.
“I’ve worked with the homeless population in the past in Chico, where I used to live,” Gonzalez said after the meeting.
Throughout his career, he has worked with the homeless, but he said he would start his new position with some homework.
“First, I’m going to learn the 10-year plan and get to know the Kern County Homeless Collaborative,” he said. “I’ll get familiar with the goals of the plan and then see how I can improve and make suggestions and work within the structure that is already here.”
With multiple departments all putting forward efforts to address homelessness, the county felt it necessary to create a position that links those efforts together, said County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop.
Gonzalez will work as the hub of the county’s homeless outreach programs in an attempt to connect the county’s efforts with the Homeless Collaborative and other agencies within the community.
“If Jose’s on it, then I have every reason to believe it will be done,” said Supervisor Mike Gleason during the meeting.
The new position will mainly support the Homeless Collaborative, and not create a separate endeavor.
In 2017, Kern County saw a 9 percent increase in homelessness compared to a 13 percent increase statewide, Alsop told the Board of Supervisors at the meeting, using statistics provided by the Homeless Collaborative.
He said the county also experienced a 38 percent increase in unsheltered homeless, compared to a 68 percent increase statewide.
The per capita homeless population for Kern County stands at 1.02 homeless per 1,000 residents, compared to 3.4 per 1,000 in California and 1.7 nationwide.
Despite the year-over-year increase, Alsop reported that homelessness has actually decreased in Kern County by 40 percent since 2007.
“Kern County, with the KCHC as lead, has worked hard to address the homelessness issue and a 40 percent reduction is an accomplishment,” Alsop said. “However, more work is to be done.”
The board is expected to hear a more extended update on the county’s efforts to fight homelessness during a July meeting.
Sam Morgen can be reached at 661-395-7415 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC