Plans for a low-barrier homeless shelter in Bakersfield have slowed after community members voiced their opposition to a proposal that Weill Park host the project.

Bakersfield city officials will work in the coming weeks to identify other locations that could house the facility before bringing a slate of options before the City Council.

No timeline has been set for completing the selection process, which had been on the brink of appearing before the council prior to concerns being raised.

The facility will eventually provide a place for 100 to 200 homeless people to sleep each night. The city hopes a new shelter will reduce the number of homeless encampments strewn throughout Bakersfield as well as bring down the number of people sleeping around businesses on a nightly basis.

“We’re at a pretty critical situation at this point, and we need to both build and operate a low barrier shelter as quickly as possible,” said City Councilman Andrae Gonzales. “There were obviously some concerned business owners and property owners regarding this location. I think part of it is related to the fact that people really don’t know exactly what this low-barrier shelter entails.”

In June, the Bakersfield Planning Commission approved a zone change that would have allowed the shelter at Weill Park, but city staff delayed bringing the recommendation before the City Council to give the city more time to come up with alternative choices.

“Personally I think it’s really important that the City Council be well informed of what options there are, and that the community have a voice,” said Assistant City Manager Jacqui Kitchen. “It’s something that we have to do right. We can’t jump into this without having a firm understanding of, one: what the homeless population of Bakersfield needs. Two: who our partners will be in operating something like this. And three: What are the options for locating this in the community?”

The City Council recently approved $4 million to add an emergency shelter for the homeless in fiscal year 2019-20.

Both existing Bakersfield homeless shelters are frequently “full” on a nightly basis, with plans in place to add 40 beds to each of the facilities.

A point-in-time count of Kern County’s homeless population completed in January located 643 “unsheltered” homeless individuals in metro Bakersfield, indicating a large need for more beds, and fast.

The low-barrier shelter would serve the homeless community that cannot otherwise access the existing shelters.

It could be a series of tent-like structures or a large building. Other services could be located at the facility like medical care, job training or housing placement.

Designs for the site have not been completed yet.

City officials have visited the sites of low-barrier shelters in other cities for ideas, and plan to make a presentation before the City Council soon.

Although Weill Park, which is located at the intersection of Q Street and Golden State Highway, has not been ruled out as a location for the shelter, the city is also looking at commercial real estate listings for more options as well as other city-owned areas.

“It really needs to be a community discussion with guidance from the Council,” Kitchen said. “We’re really interested in hearing community feedback and ideas. Are we on the right track? Should we be looking at something else?”

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

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(16) comments


Weill Park belongs to, and was intended for, the neighborhood and neighbors who have homes nearby and pay taxes for the park.

The solution for the 'homeless' is not the park neighbors to provide, and, in fact, is not actually the city's responsibility. The problem has not been caused by 'the city' or the 'neighborhood'. It's often been caused by circumstances beyond homeless persons' control (remembering, 'there, but for the Grace of God . . . "), but also, and primarily (and perpetuated). by the homeless themselves and then often exacerbated by other cities' transport to Bakersfield.

So, what's the real solution? Perhaps "community feedback" should begin with exploring the social order causes of the problem first (not a commission's job as it's already DONE) . . . and then offer ('THE PRINCIPLE OF') 'THREE' possible alternatives now that $4M is available (and won't last long) to 'DO IT NOW'! . . . :

1. Instant tent city in a county/border area removed from nearby neighbors, with families and individuals providing (sharing) . . . and enhancing . . . their current "housekeeping and construction skills" after 'busing' to site(S) >>> THESE ARE NOT DETENTION CENTERS.

2. Federal food (CAPK) and housing programs can/will provide monthly sustenance to these locations away from business and neighborhoods.

3. Provide selective and increased enforcement of vagrancy laws . . . with compassion and firmness for extreme violators . . . encouraging productive return from indigency to productivity, commerce and social survival for those able-body folks. Veteran's programs are available (DD-214 req'd or researched).

If you've never seen "The Grapes Of Wrath", it's on DVD now. The best 'camps' and 'folks' worked then and could again.


Oh boy, seems like I irritated a couple of name calling democrats.

Criticism noted and dismissed as typical lies.


Lost Hills has some open ground...


Bakersfield remains the land of hypocritical Christian fascists.


You mean like Steve57, below.


I think the money would be better spent on sending the “homeless “ on a one way vacation to San Francisco or Seattle, they seem to want these type of people living amongst them.


Whatever happened to families taking care of family. We dump everything on a government that can't solve issues but always creates unintended consequences when it does involve itself. "If you build it they will come". So are we trying to entice more homeless to call Bakersfield home? Are we trying to destabilize communities for the sake of homeless people? People are moving, businesses are dealing with one more nail in the coffin, taking public money (AGAIN)and our elected people take the side where they think people will believe they are "good", at the expense of all of us. We have to stop the insanity of trying to help people that do not want the help themselves. Or they get the system to give them what they want so they can live as they do. Am I heartless? No I am a realist and know that what all these cities are doing in pampering to the homeless ONLY HURTS THE COMMUNITIES. Look at every city that has taken the slippery slide of ruining the community over a transient group of homeless people. Eventually we will all be homeless because it will be taxed out of us and therefor make it easier to live without debt or normal concerns and join the ranks of the homeless


Ridiculous comment total ignorance


Seems like the East Hills Mall site could be ideal for homeless and low-income housing, using "tiny homes".

Use a strip of commercial to border the existing adjacent neighborhoods, them low income, them homeless closer to the freeway.


I am wondering what "community voices" wouldn't have a problem with this being located close to them. I'm thinking, none. Low-cost housing is a commendable thing. However, providing a place for people to congregate while not implementing a no-tolerance policy for substance abuse is a recipe for disaster. We must pray for wisdom.


3d tiny homes can be printed for a few thousand dollars...and would look much nicer than tents:


Maybe they can work up to the homes after they prove that they can responsibly take care of the tent.


You obviously do not know the 99% of the homeless people or their reasons for the stat they find themselves in.


And a lot of homeless are beterams


Why not put a couple in your driveway since you seem to understand the need


I have actually lent my spare room to at least 5 different homeless families or individuals temporarily while they found more permanent housing. 1 mother has been waiting fir section 8 to kick in for over 5 years. I do practice what I preach and I know the exact core of the homeless issue. It is multi faceted. First and foremost it is a mental health crisis , until we start making people get psychiatric treatment nothing is going to make a big difference. Including drug rehab. The other issue is affordable housing. We need to build these yesterday. Also need to pay a living wage so an uneducated laborer can make enough money fir shelter , utilities and food. I personally know people who have been homeless , who are currently homeless and who would be homeless if they didn’t take their psych meds.

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