NewsKern's Homeless Crisis


Bakersfield Heart Hospital looking to block temporary housing for homeless at-risk for COVID-19

Rosedale Inn
Bakersfield Heart Hospital
Homeless (FILE)
Homeless (FILE)
Posted at 5:23 PM, Sep 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-09 10:39:04-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — On the Bakersfield City Council's agenda Wednesday is a public hearing of an appeal for the conditional use permit that would turn the Rosedale Inn into temporary housing for at-risk homeless. 23ABC’s Kristin Vartan explains what the appeal is all about.

On Wednesday night, the city council will consider Bakersfield Heart Hospital’s appeal of a plan to turn the Rosedale Inn into temporary housing for those at high-risk for COVID-19 that are experiencing homelessness.

The question is: where does a person shelter-in-place when they don’t have a place to go? Enter Project Room Key.

Anna Laven of the Bakersfield-Kern Homeless Collaborative said Project Room Key is a state-wide program trying to fix this issue for people experiencing homelessness.

“What we expect to see in terms of our numbers in the fall, many more people will become ill. And what we are trying to do is prevent this group from becoming one of the folks that become vulnerable and take away from the valuable resources that we know will be in short supply,” explained Laven.

The organization learned that two people who were living on the streets in Bakersfield died from the coronavirus back in July, and with that in mind they are proposing that the city council turn the Rosedale Inn into temporary housing for the county’s high-risk homeless population.

The Bakersfield Heart Hospital is against the idea and will present its appeal of the proposal at Wednesday's city council meeting. The inn is located just a quarter-mile from the heart hospital.

Bakersfield City Planning Director Paul Johnson said the process to appeal a decision like a conditional use permit takes time.

"The planning department will present an overview of the conditional use permit and the appeal to the city council. The city council will then open it up to public comment and deliberations to make a decision."

“Was it a curveball to hear that an area hospital was appealing," asked Laven. "Absolutely, because this is really a COVID-related project.”

Laven added that the organization has tried to find a location with "as few neighbors as possible" and have "good neighbor policies."

“With any homeless project, the initial response is, 'ooh I’m not sure about that, ooh I don’t know if I want that near me,'" said Laven. "And because our homeless situation has ballooned so much recently, no one has not had an impact from homelessness."

If approved, $400,000 of pre-allocated money for COVID-19 relief for the homeless will go toward Project Room Key. Laven said this will cost less than recovery costs if such individuals get infected and are hospitalized for COVID-19. Laven said the location would feature 24/7 onsite staffing. CDC and state public health guidelines would be implemented.

The plan is to have 20 beds filled at a time and eventually help 200 people get off the streets. Laven said that there will be a housing navigator to find permanent housing for those staying at the inn.
“The only way that we solve homelessness is to make sure every person in Kern County has a home.”

Those who go through Project Room Key will be at the top of their housing priority list.

23ABC reached out to the Sparks Law firm. They were unable to provide a comment on behalf of their client, the Bakersfield Heart Hospital.