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Homeless camp set up on Central Park jungle gym

Councilman explains challenges of finding new shelter location
Posted at 6:41 PM, Aug 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-21 21:41:57-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. --- — Several homeless people set up camp on the Central Park jungle gym Wednesday morning, spurring concern from Bakersfield residents, following a photograph of the scene posted by 23ABC News on Facebook.

Homeless individuals can be seen sleeping on the jungle gym's slides, under its bridge and along the sides. A tent was also seen on top of the jungle gym.

Bakersfield Councilman Andrae Gonzales of Ward 2 says unsheltered people in Bakersfield have "almost doubled within the last year."

City council has been consulting about a new shelter for homeless individuals in an effort to mitigate the number sleeping in parks and on the streets.

But still, no location for that shelter has been confirmed, following eight months of the passing of Measure N, which provided the city with millions of dollars in July, to address in part, homelessness.

Gonzales says selecting a location for a shelter isn't as easy as people may think.

"The locations that are actually suitable: away from residential properties, away from sensitive uses such as schools, those locations are really few and far between," Gonzales said.

While in search for a location, Gonzales says the city is also searching for a service provider to help run shelter operations.

So far, they've consulted with The Mission at Kern County and the Bakersfield Homeless Center as possible service providers.

Bakersfield police also weighed in on the issue of homeless people sleeping at parks.

According to Sergeant Nathan McCauley, police can't just arrest a lawful homeless individual for lingering around at a park.

"Courts have currently ruled that to cite someone or arrest somebody for sleeping in public constitutes an Eighth Amendment rights violation of cruel and unusual punishment," McCauley said.

Weill Park and a property located near Truxtun and California avenues are locations city officials are considering for a new shelter, but neither have been confirmed.