BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — This past week the Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with Community Action Partnership of Kern, also known as CAPK, to operate a safe camping and parking program at the M Street Navigation Center.
This program is part of Kern County’s Strategic Mitigation Plan to reduce homelessness in Kern County.
“If you’re a single woman sleeping in your car, that can get pretty scary even for any individual. You know that’s pretty scary you don’t know who’s out there with what types of weapons,” said Laurie Hughey.
Program manager at M Street Navigation Laurie Hughey said this project was born back in November when the Kern County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an anti-encampment ordinance. She said she was glad to see that they approved this solution-based approach on March.
The motion was approved unanimously and met with lots of support from leaders within the community.
Anna Laven, Executive Director of the Bakersfield Homeless Collaborative, said the program can eventually connect people with long term housing.
“It lends us additional options, it gives us more diversity for the types of programming and getting folks really that much closer to getting connected, to getting them stable, and getting them housed, which is really our ultimate goal.”
Hughey said there were already thousands of homeless people in Kern County and COVID-19 did not help the situation and that is why this program is so important.
“So, the area that we are going to do safe camping, we’ll provide them with tents and a sleeping bag and on the other side we are going to do the safe parking.”
Hughey said she understands being homeless is already difficult and they wanted to make this as easy as possible for those already living in encampments.
“There is so many reasons why a person has been experiencing homelessness, in my opinion, it is not by choice. Something has happened along the way when we are little kids, we don't aspire to be homeless you know we aspire to be something.”
She adds, instead of fear, people should practice grace.
“They're human beings and if we treat them as human beings, we get a little bit more out of people. Just remembering that they have you know parents, they may have children, they may have you know like family members out there. I think if we just remember that God made all of us, some of us may just have a tougher time than others.”
Hughey said this program will begin as early as this April and will not expire until 2025. Her hope is that in the meantime those within the encampments will develop a trust with M Street Navigation and want to enter housing to permanently.