Homeless People, Shelter Report Seeing An Increase
7:56 AM, Feb 12, 2009
A local homeless census says there are less homeless people in Kern County, but word on the street is different. In fact, Kern County is facing a homeless crisis.The Kern County Homeless Collaborative says there are nearly 1,500 homeless people in Kern County, nearly 100 less people compared to 2007. But those we spoke to say there are definitely more than that.Transient Frank Lopez said,"There's a lot more people on the streets."Transient Anna Harris said, "I'm seeing more homeless people on the streets."Despite preliminary Census results reporting a decline in homelessness, folks living on the street say many more have joined them in the past year. The Bakersfield Homeless Shelter agrees.Shelter Director Louis Gill said, "We've seen a 38 percent increase in the number of families seeking shelter. We're at capacity and there's more and more coming in off the street."Louis Gill of the Bakersfield Homeless Shelter said the discrepancy in Census numbers was weather-related."It was raining that day. It's tough to find people outside. They'll seek shelter in everything from abandoned buildings to motel rooms so it's hard to find people when the weather turns bad and cold," said Gill.Homeless people told us a bad economy and foreclosure crisis has forced more people onto the street, which supports census findings that more people are without shelter.Transient Christine Imperial said, "The homeless shelter are packed, there's waiting lists.""No where to go so they're sleeping under bridges and parking lots and stuff," said Lopez."There's so many of my friends who sleep on the streets or alleys and stuff and some don't even have blankets," said Harris.The increase in unsheltered homeless people correlates to the lack of staff and funding at the rescue mission along with the closures of Restoration Village and Tabitha's house over the past year. Meanwhile the Bakersfield Rescue Mission says they're barely able to keep up with feeding people, much less house them since they're at capacity."It's frightening," said Gill.Census organizers say the numbers are still preliminary and final figures could be higher.