BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Officials say we are seeing a decrease in the ability to secure permanent housing opportunities in the last quarter of 2020 and those latest spikes show concerning trends of newly homeless community members.
“What we want to see is the creation of a system where homelessness is rare, it is brief, and it doesn't happen again.”
It remains a strong goal for Anna Laven, the executive director of the Bakersfield Kern Regional Homeless Collaborative, but reports put together by that organization show some concerning trends
“We're seeing some trends where folks who wouldn't necessarily have to call places like 2-11 are now having to seek services for the first time, and that's a concern.”
Those 2-11 calls which can help with resources and information for the homeless community, went from just under 1,000 in 2019, peaking at nearly 3,500 in 2020. The data also shows an increase in the number of those individuals experiencing homelessness for the first time, but a decrease in those finding permanent housing, and that’s just a few of the problems.
“The other issue we're seeing here in Bakersfield is the low vacancy rate for rental units. We're at less than 2% vacancy rates, and so what that means is those even interested or those able to find apartment units. So there's a supply and demand issue that we're concerned about as well.”
On Wednesday, Laven took these issues to the Bakersfield City Council, to discuss what needs to be addressed moving forward.
“When affordable housing is being developed, is there an opportunity to have some of those units carved out or identified for permanent supportive housing, are there other grant funds or other resources that we can look to make sure we're maximizing the resources we have and continue to bring in.”
She says this needs to be addressed for many reasons, but one being that 1 in 5 of those experiencing homelessness is a child.
“We know that there are significant impacts to that child when they grow up living on the streets.”
She says that people in the age range of 18 – 24 also contribute to a significant number of the homeless population, which makes the path for their future a little more uncertain.
“Every day that they spend on the street, getting themselves back on strong footing and having goals and a career and all of the things that we want for that age group, that gets more and more difficult.”
If you are or know someone in need of housing assistance due to homelessness you can call the number 2-1-1 for available resources throughout the county.