Kern County’s most recent survey of its homeless population revealed a 50 percent increase over last year’s numbers, the Kern County Homeless Collaborative reported Tuesday.

In this year’s point-in-time count, volunteers found 1,330 people experiencing homelessness, a large jump from 2018’s result of 885.

The count, which occurred in late January of this year, was meant to document every homeless person in the county. State and federal agencies use the count to distribute funding, meaning a higher count can lead to more money being distributed to a given area.

The Homeless Collaborative attributed the steep increase in the numbers to an increase in the amount of volunteers who took part in the count, implying that previous years may have been undercounted.

The Homeless Collaborative said 300 volunteers participated in 2019, compared to around 150 in 2018, nearly a 50 percent increase.

"It is by far our most comprehensive count to date," said Jessica Janssen, homeless projects manager for the United Way of Kern County.

However, she noted that some people inevitably were missed, meaning there are gaps in the data.

Both city and county employees were encouraged to take part this year. Kern County supervisors went so far as to allow county employees to be paid while participating in the count.

A total of 125 county employees took part, said Director of Countywide Communications Megan Person.

"It is really important that we get this right," she said, referring to the county's efforts to reduce homelessness. "We want people to understand that the county is committed to addressing the issue of homelessness."

The count distinguishes between people in shelters and those who sleep on the streets.

In this year’s count, the Homeless Collaborative noted a 118 percent increase in the number of homeless people who were unsheltered.

Families with children, veterans and youth also saw increases over last year.

"One of the most important things to remember is that we're talking about human beings, and we're talking about human beings who are suffering," Janssen said.

Although 80 percent of those counted resided within metro Bakersfield, homelessness in rural areas of the county experienced a 131 percent jump, reflecting a push by the Homeless Collaborative to send volunteers into lower-population areas.

Potentially for the first time ever, volunteer counters visited places like Arvin, Tehachapi and Rosamond, giving homeless experts perhaps the first real look at homelessness outside Bakersfield.

“Now we have a better foundation,” Person said. “So the system is an accurate read of who is out there and what they need.”

Janssen said the homelessness increase in Kern County reflects a general rise in homelessness statewide.

Homelessness had been falling in the county since at least 2007, according to statistics provided by the Homeless Collaborative. It hasn’t been until 2017 that the numbers began to climb up.

The homeless population still has not reached the peak of around 1,600 that was logged in the 2007 point-in-time count.

The Homeless Collaborative will now analyze the data it has collected to determine where to focus its efforts.

Sam Morgen can be reached at 661-395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @smorgenTBC.

(7) comments

yorkies2014

and the rich get richer......Grimmway Farms President joins USDA Secretary at New York Stock Exchange

REMUDA

Does anyone know how I can get the 'homeless' bus schedule from LA up here . . . weekly . . . ? Do ya think they'd let me ride the empty one back to a VA appointment in WLA. If I have the schedule, maybe get a return trip too . . . ? Think they'd let me bring my bike along . . . ? Do they provide sack lunches . . . ? Are we allowed to talk to the driver . . . ? Are there any stops along the way . . . ?
Do they go to the beach . . . ? How 'bout a connecting bus to Disneyland . . . ?.

bakodon

Excuse my ire but this is a total BS story! Real homeless, YES HELP THEM. But the one who's life style is their failure to conform and wish to live on the streets should not be allowed. You thank the ACLU and their ilk for the current homeless situation in and around Bakersfield...Their attitude is "live and let live". What about the rest of us? I'm tired of being accosted at Fastrip, having these individuals roaming my neighborhood and stealing and breaking into my home. The mentally ill, truly a sad situation! Only "US" can rectify that situation with new laws. HaHa not as long as Libs and Dems control Sacramento....lets do a real count!

Copper

Actually the democrat party believes in funding for homeless unlike the repiblicans . This is Reagan’s self created problem in first place. Isn’t he the great Republican president ? We are reaping what he sowed.

Django

The homeless are camped out all along the River, Downtown, canal banks. There is a filthy encampment next to the bike path off the Manor parking area, home of meth and a crowded gay hook up. Rather disgusting on all accounts.

Copper

Regardless 1 homeless person is 1 too many! We have to change the 5150 laws here and force people into treatment (drug and mental health) if necessary. Allowing these people to live like this is shameful and inhuman. NPR just had an article about a community in New Jersey that has there homeless to zero! Not by busing them elsewhere (Los Angeles). But targeting and wrapping services around each individual. This should be all our goal.

RefereeB

This infers that if we doubled the counting staff again we would find another 50% increase in homeless...

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