BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — City officials of Bakersfield said there has been an increase in the unsheltered population, 309 homeless individuals were reported in 2018 which then rose to 842 in 2020.
The Bakersfield-Kern Regional Homeless Collaborative said that 88% of Kern County’s sheltered and unsheltered homeless population in 2020 was located in metro Bakersfield. However, city officials say that solutions are underway.
“To me, and I think we all agree, it is not compassionate to leave these people on the street.” These are the concerns of Kern County Chief Probation Officer T.R. Merickel, and many community members and officials.
Phil Burns, Building Director for the City and Code Enforcement said that one of the first things to address is the issue of encampment across the city.
He said that for public property cases they provide a 48-hour notice for the homeless people to vacate but also approach them with the option to be sheltered locally.
They take part in resources that will help them get back on their feet.
“It takes a lot of time explaining why they should not be in the location that they are at. Providing the different services that are available, generally explaining that it is a good facility, getting others that are out at those locations, perhaps that are homeless, to also encourage that individual, get flood also involved the explain the various programs.”
According to the Code Enforcement Rapid Response Team, in 2021 they took part in over 4,600 encampment clean ups.
While they are determined to keep our community clean, the ultimate main goal is to encourage a lifestyle change for these people.
That of course starts with the help of local authorities and their “MET” team which directs them to mental health services in Kern County.
“When you have an individual that is showing characteristics that he is not stable, kind of irrational, we are able to get BPD out with that particular unit. To get somebody that is actually better trained to handle that situation, to get them the right care that they need.”
Burns adds that although they offer the opportunity for homeless people to re-locate to homeless shelters, some are resistant to the idea.
“They feel that they don’t want rules. That’s probably the biggest kind of excuse, that they don’t want rules. For most of the facilities that are out there like the BLNC, the rules are pretty easy to abide by. If you’re able to not be on a substance for a period of time, you’re able to stay there.”
Since July of 2021 the Code Enforcement Rapid Response Team has spent $3.8 million towards efforts of keeping our area clean from encampments.