KERN COUNTY, Calif — Data shows more people are on the streets in Kern County and around the nation. Now, local and state leaders are looking to put an end to this crisis.
The 2021 Point in Time Count found roughly 2,150 people experiencing homelessness in Kern County. Last year, the same count found 1,580 people were living on the streets at any given time. This shows an increase in our homeless population locally and national data reports the same.
In 2019 the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported 567,715 homeless individuals across the nation. That number went up to 580,466 by 2020.
National leaders have said they are concerned that the pandemic forced more people out of their homes and onto the streets.
Kern County Board of Supervisor Mike Maggard says he wants to take the next step to help combat homelessness in Kern County. To help with safety and getting the homeless population off the street he asked county staff to look into the possibility of starting an anti-camping ordinance across the county. He learned about the ordinance from Los Angeles County and he believes it's something Kern County should look into, but he also says, the homelessness issue is not nearly as bad as LA.
“If they can do it there, I think we can do it here and I would love for us to have a conversation about that. It's also inhumane of us to continue to allow people to continue to live in that fashion.”
He requested the county look into the ordinance that stops individuals from camping on the streets.
“They have agendized an ordinance in the city of Los Angeles that will for it to no longer be tolerated for people to camp, erect tents, make living accommodations, or sleep on public sidewalks or thoroughfares."
During Tuesday’s supervisors' meeting, Maggard also says he doesn’t want Kern County’s homeless issue to grow to what LA is currently dealing with.
“What we are seeing there, we are seeing more and more of here. I want to nip this in the bud before it gets out of hand. In my opinion, it's already out of hand but it's not nearly the huge crisis it is in other big cities in California.”
He says that this ordinance will not only help those on the street but the rest of the community as well.
But if the camps are cleared, where do the homeless then end up going?
Maggard says housing is the next step.
“We need more transitional housing, and that can’t just be the government building more and more housing projects. I have some ideas about that, maybe the use of mobile homes.”
With all this, Maggard hopes that if the county takes on the issue may be the city will follow suit.
“If it’s feasible here then we would present it to other municipalities that would like to join us. Maybe even the City of Bakersfield.”
Maggard also says it's important to understand this won’t solve all of the homelessness issues but it will help solve a piece and move in the right direction.