23ABC In Depth: 10-year plan to end homelessness

Will new plan help end homelessness in Kern?

It's an issue that is getting harder to ignore. The homeless in Kern County and Bakersfield are more visible than ever.

Homeless individuals seen walking in and out of downtown streets, sleeping on sidewalks, camps set up along freeways and in busy shopping centers. 

Shelters are at or near capacity, non-profits dedicated to helping individuals are stretched thin, and affordable housing is scarce. 

The issue is reaching a critical crossroads. 

In May, a homeless count facilitated by the collaborative revealed a spike in the homeless population year-over-year; a 9-percent jump in the county overall, metro Bakersfield experienced double digit increases. 

Homeless numbers in the past 10-years though, do show a near 40-percent decrease overall. 

It was 2008, Mayor Harvey Hall along with leaders from the United Way, Homeless Collaborative and Home First Campaign launched the ambitious effort to end chronic homeless in Kern County. 

That was then, and this is now. 

So, what's being done to address the issue now? 

On Monday, the Kern County Homeless Collaborative at the request of the Board of Supervisors presented a new 10-year plan to address a rise in the homeless population. County leaders from mental health, homeless shelters and veterans services addressed the board, highlighting a renewed decade long commitment to house the homeless.  

Three months ago the plan was renewed for another decade.

But this plan, according to Mission at Kern County Executive Director, and Chair of the Homeless Collaborative Carlos Baldovinos has a more aggressive and intentional approach. 

It addresses a need for more affordable housing, proposing to add 10,470 new beds in the next 10-years. It also adds funding for mental health outreach services.

Bakersfield and Kern County set to receive more than $3-million dollars by state and federal agencies.

"We're running at capacity," Carlos Baldovinos told 23ABC's Tim Calahan Wednesday. "It's in crisis mode, now that we have to plan in place, we have to get moving."

Speaking about the new plan to end homeless in Kern, Baldovinos said a focus on affordable housing will be key. "We have to create more affordable housing opportunities, we have to create more emergency shelter beds."

He also called on the collaborative and the community to continue to have compassion for homeless individuals.

"We want to reach people, we want to keep helping people, we don't want to enable people, we want to keep helping them." 

Baldovinos said by the end of the year, agencies will have a better idea for how the more than $3-million dollars devoted to the new effort will be allocated. 

Leaders in the collaborative and at the county plan to work out those details in the coming months. 

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