NewsKern's Homeless Crisis


Bakersfield expanding resources for the homeless population

Posted: 4:57 PM, Jul 26, 2022
Updated: 2022-07-27 13:10:05-04
Brundage Lane Navigation Center Expansion
Brundage Lane Navigation Center Expansion
Brundage Lane Navigation Center Expansion
Brundage Lane Navigation Center Expansion

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — A recent report finds over 1,600 people in the community are homeless as the issue continues to be a major concern for residents and local leaders alike.

The next phase in addressing the homelessness issue in the community is to expand places like the Brundage Lane Navigation Center so organizations are not forced to turn people away. It is an issue Anthony Valdez, with the city of Bakersfield, hopes will be solved with the 119 additional beds this expansion is set to bring.

Brundage Lane Navigation Center Expansion

"Each week the city has to turn away 100 people that are interested in entering the Brundage Lane Navigation Center," says sot Anthony Valdez, the assistant to the city manager.

And it’s not just the lack of bed space. Valdez says things like not having enough kennels for pets or couples dorms also prevent people from staying at a shelter. This is why the expansion looks to remove those barriers by increasing its kennel space from 15 to 50 among other initiatives. They will also have bike storage and expanded parking for those living out of their cars.

"A 99-bed men’s dorm. A 20-bed recuperative care dorm operated by Kern Medical so that emergency rooms can move folks out of emergency room beds into the shelter," says Valdez.

Brundage Lane Navigation Center Expansion

The end goal according to Valdez is to move them out of shelters and into permanent housing.

At the moment, the average person stays at the shelter for 90 days. But getting into a house is only becoming harder with the affordable housing shortage.

"Here at the city’s Brundage Lane Navigation Center, we have 76 people that have been matched with the voucher that 76 people where their housing will be paid for but we just simply cannot find a place to house them."

Over the past year and a half, the Center has been able to find housing for 158 people, and 90% of them have maintained that housing, since.

Brundage Lane Navigation Center Expansion

Theo Dues, the regional manager of Mercy House which oversees the Brundage Lane Navigation Center, says he is proud of those accomplishments.

"The goal of the shelter is to keep people here for as little time as possible and to get them into permanent housing. The goal then becomes giving them lives of dignity, purpose, joy, and healing."

"And the way we do that is providing quality aftercare services so that once a person is placed in housing we can continue to go in and provide mental health care or chemical addiction treatment or domestic violence counseling," continued Dues. "Whatever that person's trauma is we continue to provide help for that trauma."

He says while others look to move to transitional homes before permanent homes, they have a housing first approach that skips that middle step.

That trauma is a part of the issue that cannot be ignored. Dues adds that not only is it more cost efficient but the emphasis on trauma care is making all the difference.

"We employ what's called trauma-informed care and essentially what that means is that we begin with an understanding that every person who comes to our doors for help has been deeply traumatized and our immediate goal is to meet them in their trauma rather than expecting them to meet us where we are."

Dues says since they opened more than 700 people have walked through their doors adding progress is slow but steady.

"Healing is happening with the homeless condition in Bakersfield. And for most citizens of Bakersfield, all they're going to see is the problem. They drive to work every day they see the same problem over and over but what they're missing is the solution and we are solving the problem of homelessness in Bakersfield not just managing it. We're solving it and the solution takes time and it takes a lot of investment but it is happening."

Because mental health and substance abuse is the main component of this issue, the city continues to advocate at the state level for more resources for those areas.

"Because of mental health and substance abuse we are seeing an increase in folks that are service resistant and so the city at the state level is working hard on changing policy to increase access to mental health and substance abuse services because this is fundamentally a mental health and substance abuse crisis," continued Valdez.

The expansion is set to be completed in January.