An issue that was largely out of sight and out of mind, is no longer that. The face of homelessness is coming into full view.
And while outreach and enforcement have helped alleviate issues in certain areas, some parts of town are seeing more issues than others, which have officials concerned.
Bakersfield Police Department senior officer Bill Routh is part of the department’s impact unit tackling the issue of chronic homelessness.
“Our focus with our unit, we try to help the homeless off the streets”, said Routh, “we have to remember it’s not against the law to be homeless, actions that individuals take, that’s what we focus on.”
Routh and other officers are responsible for monitoring the city’s historic hot spots of homelessness as well as transient individuals.
But these days those historic hotspots aren’t so much the concern anymore. Places that were once trickling the homeless are now nearly barren.
“There was numbers tents, they actually had their own mayor and so-called police,” said Routh.
Mission Director Carlos Bandolinos said many homeless individuals have started showing up in Old Town Kern, and even outside of the Mission at Kern County.
“We’ve seen an influx of folks these past three months that we haven’t seen in a long time”, said Bandolinos.
However, recent numbers released by the Kern County Homeless Collaborative paint a different picture. Back in March, the collaborative released that only 810 individuals were known to be homeless in the entire county.
According to the 2017 Homeless Census, Kern County saw a 24% decrease in the homeless population year over year. The census also showed the number of individuals using drugs and alcohol was down anywhere between 30 to 60%.
Facilitators of the census urge however that it doesn’t represent the actual homeless population, rather a snap shot in time of what that population looks like.
“We have to get together, there has to be more education on some of the underlying issues, the opioid abuse, there’s a plethora of things,” said Bandolinos, “it’s more community wide, it’s everyone getting involved and doing something, because it’s our community”.
But back on the front lines, police, service providers, and community leaders have one mission, helping the homeless out of the shadows.
In 2014, Tim Calahan followed along with the same BPD unit. Watch 23ABC’s coverage of the homeless issue downtown here.