BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The first phase of the Downtown Business Association and Downtown Bakersfield Development Corporation’s block-to-block project kicked off in March. This project provided walking patrols from Wall Street Alley to 20th and Chester to H Street but business owners say this is just the first step.
“To act like these problems are happening just downtown, that is not the fact. It doesn’t matter if you're at the mall or if you're at the southwest of town, or in Rosedale. Crime is affecting every community and every member of our community,” said Cassie Bittle, owner of KC Steakhouse.
Local business owners like Bittle are taking part in this pilot project.
This first phase of the project that began in March consisted of having a local security agent present patrolling on foot near various businesses across Downtown Bakersfield. However, Melanie Farmer, president and CEO of the Downtown Business Association, says in the second phase they are taking action to the next level by implementing additional security measures.
“Not just the businesses but for customers that come down to the downtown area, it's just much safer and much more pleasant in that area right now. Here it is so spread out on the West Chester area, you’ve got all the way to 30th and then you’re going all the way down to 24th Street. It's a long area. They’re going to try driving. They're going to do a driving patrol.”
Tina Brown is the owner of Tina Marie’s Downtown Cafe on 19th Street. She says she’s been downtown for almost two decades. She reopened her business last year in a new location after her original downtown restaurant burned down in December 2020. The cause of that fire was never officially determined by investigators. She says since the implementation of the pilot project there has been a noticeable difference near her restaurant adding that she and her employees have had very minimal issues and feel much safer.
“I’ve seen a lot. I have had over on 19th Street so far zero police calls. I’ve had to call the police zero times. I’ve had zero broken windows. My girls and my employees in the morning, there’s only been like one incident versus two or three times a week in the past. So it is doing very well.”
Selena Pimentel is the supervisor of the local security agency O&A sScurity that is patrolling within the pilot project. She says when the security guards are patrolling the downtown area they do offer homeless people services at local shelters like the Brundage Lane Navigation Center, Flood Ministries, and the Mission at Kern County.
“We always offer a phone number, give them a call for them, set up a place where we can meet them off of properties. Sometimes they do accept it and we are able to get people off the street and sometimes they don’t, depending on their situations or state of mind and everything like that. We can’t help everybody but do try.”
If you are a local business owner in Downtown Bakersfield and would like to take part in the block-to-block project, call (661) 325-5892.
City Leaders Announce $3.9 million to Help the Homeless
That wasn’t the only announcement on homelessness Thursday. California’s Homeless Housing Assistance and Prevention (HHAP) has awarded the City of Bakersfield more than $3 million for the 2022 to 2023 fiscal year.
For many unhoused individuals, substance abuse and the affordable housing crisis are just a few of the issues that seem to hit their population harder. With the $3.9 million in funding, the City of Bakersfield plans to address these issues directly starting at a local level. Adding new beds in shelters, hiring formerly homeless people to help clean encampments, and having mental health professionals for emergency shelters are just some examples of what Bakersfield hopes to accomplish as soon as possible.
As for individuals who tend not to accept help Bakersfield is partnering with Flood Ministries to focus on targeted street outreach where they are talking with those who are homeless to let them know they have options.
“In those ways, we are really trying to be really thoughtful about those subpopulations of people experiencing homelessness and really finding new strategies to get them off the street,” said Bakersfield City Councilmember Andrae Gonzales.
As of right now, $1 million is being allocated to the Open Door Network to create a new campus with family units. Future projects include permanent supportive housing and a youth shelter.
The City of Bakersfield is planning on activating these programs within the next year.
If you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness, the city recommends you call the number 2-1-1 for referrals and options.