BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The homeless population in Kern County has continued to grow throughout this pandemic, keeping the county consistently working towards helping those that are living on the streets.
Friday marked the opening of the Mission at Kern County’s shelter expansion, where community leaders joined in the celebration and fight to help end homelessness. Officials with the shelter say this is a step in the right direction, but there is still more that needs to be done.
The Mission at Kern County celebrated their shelter expansion with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, adding 40 new beds for those who are struggling with homelessness.
“You know the 40 beds signify, that is 40 fewer people, that are going to be on the streets of Bakersfield,” said Carlos Baldovinos, executive director, The Mission at Kern County.
The expansion has been in the works for nearly six months, with hopes to help even more residents in the community, and especially with the pandemic, Carlos Baldovinos, executive director of The Mission at Kern County, says that homelessness has increased throughout the county.
“You’re seeing homelessness, it is going to continue to rise, and I do believe, and I have been saying this for a while, the pandemic, the longer it keeps going, it is going to hurt our community further.”
For the Mission, their main goal is to continue helping and providing shelter to those who are struggling with addiction and homelessness, but the city of Bakersfield is also doing their part.
“It is kind of a combination of both, where we are reducing the number of people that want to seek services and are in need and getting them into a shelter and hopefully transitioning them into more permanent housing over time but there are also individuals that are becoming homeless on a daily basis due to the social environment and state,” said Steve Rodrigue, supervisor for the Bakersfield Code Enforcement.
Steve Rodrigue, the supervisor for the Bakersfield Code Enforcement, works closely with the Bakersfield Police Department along with other homeless shelters throughout the city to locate those who are living on the street and offer them different options and information to get them into shelters, while keeping the streets of Bakersfield clean.
“I encourage both sides, the community to report the situations that they see and the folks within the homeless community to reach out to us. We’re not just the ones carrying a badge writing tickets. We want to get them into a better place and help clean up the neighborhood,” added Rodrigue.
While Baldovinos believes Bakersfield is heading in the right direction, he says there's still more to do.
“I do believe that there are great strides that we have done, but there is so much more work that has to be done in the future and the days ahead.”
If you want to report a situation or homeless encampment you can contact code enforcement at (661) 326-3720, and if you want to help out at The Mission at Kern County, you can donate or volunteer.