Thanks to the Kern County Board of Supervisors and the city of Bakersfield for planning additional homeless shelters in Bakersfield, in spite of the objections of those who choose to see all the homeless as mentally ill, severely addicted or criminals ("Kern supervisors clear path for homeless shelter near downtown Bakersfield," Oct. 29 and "Bakersfield announces homeless shelter for Brundage Lane," Oct. 29). It sounds like the county and city have made thoughtful, reasonable selections. We must recognize, however, that even the proposed additional, less restrictive shelter beds will not accommodate all the homeless in our community.
For example, both proposals talk about providing beds for individuals. That does nothing for the individuals, couples and families who are living in tents, cars or old RVs, wherever they can find a hopefully safe place to pitch a tent or park. They have lost jobs, are disabled or otherwise can’t afford housing. They have fallen through the so-called “safety net.” Now if the city site has space, perhaps it could include an area where people like this can also stay in safety. It’s been done elsewhere.
Yes, there are homeless individuals who are severely addicted and/or mentally ill. They are a small minority of the homeless population, but they are the most visible and problematic for the community and for themselves. They need the most intensive services. Lock them up? That will get them out of sight for a while, but it won’t heal or help them. It’s just expensively warehousing them. Can we not continue to seek funding and provide services to change the situation for as many of them as possible?
Robert Williams, Bakersfield