BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The Bakersfield Homeless Center gave a major update to the Kern County Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning concerning their planned merger with the Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, as well as the upcoming groundbreaking of their new 340-bed multi-service facility.
The current property where the homeless center is located has been purchased by California High-Speed Rail Authority. The CEO for the Bakersfield Homeless Center, Lauren Skidmore, said their current lease takes them out to 2025 and it is then they will have to relocate. She said they are already moving forward on completing their new facility with hopes for it to be move-in ready by the time they must leave their current property. The new location will be announced in March or April.
Skidmore also said with the renewed focus on providing mental health resources to the homeless they are also merging with the Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault.
"We will be able to merge the organizations together and that will allow us to have staff be able to cross over and provide support. So one of the things we've constantly been looking for is ways to fund therapists at our Bakersfield Homeless Center site because we know those clients need extra mental health support. They need just somebody to be able to help heal their trauma that they've been through within the shelter and on the streets. No, we can't do that with its current format. Once we merge, we will be able to cross over and provide support for both clients."
The merger is expected to be completed sometime in July. A new name for this new combined center will be announced at that time as well.
Homeless Data Across the Country and the County
During the Bakersfield Homeless Center's report, they also shared the latest data on homelessness here at their facility and across the nation. 23ABC took an in-depth look at those numbers and broke them down.
First, 580,466 people across the United States are currently homeless. Twenty-eight percent or 162,530 of those homeless are in California. Of those 70 percent of the homeless population are men.
White people make up the largest group in that homeless population. However, there is a rise in African Americans becoming homeless across the nation.
Homeless Data in Bakersfield
In Bakersfield, the homeless center shared their current numbers. It's important to note these numbers are only from the Bakersfield Homeless Center and do not include the Brundage Lane or M Street Navigation Center.
Currently, the Bakersfield Homeless Center has 185 people at its shelter. Forty-seven percent of the total number of people they served in 2021 were Hispanic.
Most of their clients are women or children under the age of 18. However, there has been a rise in single fathers coming to the facility.
There has also been a rise in African Americans at the Bakersfield Homeless Center.