Homelessness is on the rise in metro Bakersfield. Many Ward 2 neighborhoods are experiencing an increased number of homeless individuals on the streets. The Kern County Homeless Collaborative's Point-in-Time Count is an indicator to measure the number of homeless in our community. In 2016, it reported a 51% increase of unsheltered homeless in metro Bakersfield compared to the same time-frame in 2015. While many nonprofits and government agencies work hard to reduce homelessness in Kern County, more must be done at the City Council level to support their efforts.
As the Ward 2 Councilman, I will work collaboratively with the Kern County Homeless Collaborative to identify how the City can best enhance its efforts.
The City of Bakersfield receives over $3.2 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program funds from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development each year. CDBG is a flexible program that provides communities with resources to address a wide range of unique community development needs. I propose the City of Bakersfield tackle the growing homelessness problem by allocating CDBG Funds to supplement existing efforts to reduce homelessness.
Specifically, I will work to allocate funds toward the following homelessness reduction efforts:
We must strengthen street outreach programs that reach out to the homeless who may have mental illness and/or substance abuse problems and are residing in parks, alleys, storefronts, and places not fit for human habitation. Street outreach workers work to build trusting relationships with homeless individuals. Through these relationships, many chronically homeless people have moved from the streets toward permanent housing and self-sufficiency.
Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing
In order to quell the rise of homelessness, we must intensify our prevention efforts at this time. Rapid re-housing provides rental assistance to families who would become homeless if not for the assistance provided through the program.
Emergency Shelter and Transitional Housing
The City must continue to support emergency shelter that provides a safe, secure and temporary place for individuals to live while they secure more permanent housing. We must also support transitional housing that provides a more stable place for individuals to live for up to 24 months while individuals work towards securing a job and permanent housing.
Job Training Programs
The City and the Bakersfield Homeless Center have taken great strides at providing employment opportunities for recently homeless individuals, such as hiring them to remove litter from public places. Similarly, the downtown street ambassadors program- a collaboration between the Mission of Kern County, Garden Pathways, the Bakersfield Homeless Center, and the Downtown Business Development Corporation- is a project that employs recently-homeless individuals to cleanup Downtown Bakersfield. I hope to expand these programs to strengthen the job training component and provide more homeless individuals an opportunity to work.
Permanent Supportive Housing
Permanent supportive housing combines housing assistance and supportive services for homeless individuals with serious mental illnesses, chronic substance abuse problems, physical disabilities, and/or AIDS and related diseases. We must provide support services along with housing in order to prevent individuals from falling back into homelessness.
The time is now for stronger leadership in Ward 2. Addressing homelessness in our community is imperative. I would appreciate the opportunity to serve the community and address this very important issue.