BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — A Bakersfield inn will not be used to house the vulnerable homeless population during the COVID-19 pandemic after council members with the City of Bakersfield voted 7-0 to uphold an appeal by a neighboring hospital. 23ABC's Kylie Walker explains the decision.
Project Room Key is a statewide initiative that looks to provide temporary housing for the vulnerable population that is experiencing homelessness and are at high risk of contracting COVID-19. In Kern County, there was a push to use the Rosedale Inn in Bakersfield.
But Wednesday night city council members voted 7-0 to uphold hold an appeal by the Bakersfield Heart Hospital, which means Rosedale Inn cannot be used for that intended purpose.
Louis Gill with the Bakersfield Homeless Center said this is the second time that a desired location has been denied. So at this point, he is not sure the community is going to allow the project to happen.
"Fear is a powerful thing and if you are not used to being around individuals who have been homeless for a period of time it can be very uncomfortable and this is one of those times where fear has won the day," said Gill. "I am not convinced that we will be able to find this mythological location that people will agree upon. Because unfortunately the effects of extreme poverty, the effects of addiction and mental illness - well it's difficult for people, and they often just don't want it around."
The appeal was filed by the Bakersfield Heart Hospital which is located about a quarter-mile away from the Rosedale Inn. A doctor from the hospital spoke at the council meeting Wednesday saying if it was allowed it would detour patients and employees from wanting to go into the hospital.
"How can you jeopardize the people who provide care to the community the last 20 years and be somehow scared, intimidated and not be encouraged to come to work," said Dr. Brijesh Bhambi of the Bakersfield Heart Hospital. "Doing it at the doorsteps of the heart hospital serves nobody well."
After a 5 month battle and now a second location denied, Gill said they will continue to fight.
23ABC reached out to Sparks Law firm which is representing the Bakersfield Heart Hospital. However, we have yet to hear back.
The council said they applaud the idea of Project Room Key, but they agreed the Rosedale Inn is not the best fit for it.