BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood announced his homeless initiative, following the County's approval of a low-barrier shelter in Central Bakersfield Tuesday.
Younblood and Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer told 23ABC News that they plan to arrest and prosecute drug addicted homeless individuals and keep them in custody for up to a year in Lerdo jail.
"In my jail today, we have over 600 empty beds," Youngblood said. "We've never had empty beds in the history of my career. Those 600 people I can show you where they're at. They're on our streets preying on our citizens."
Youngblood noted that Proposition 47 downgraded several drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. As a result, offenders would be cited and released, instead of booked into jail.
The County's decision to add a homeless shelter near Golden State Highway and 'O' Street is a step forward, but not enough to address the bigger issue.
"When we had them at Lerdo for extended periods of time, we had them in a controlled environment," Youngblood said. "They lined up to get into programs. When they're on the streets, they're lining up to find drugs, not to get into programs."
Youngblood and Zimmer said funding is one contingency they'll need to hire additional detention officers, so they can start putting drug addicted homeless individuals in jail beds that are currently empty.
The County is hoping that it's new low-barrier shelter will be operating by the end of 2019.