The City Council heard from dozens of passionate community members Wednesday night, many concerned about the increase in homelessness issues around town, particularly in the Downtown area.
Following a comprehensive report from City staff about the state of homelessness and options that are available, the council unanimously directed staff to take four steps.
Those steps include directing staff to:
1) Secure a contract with a private security service to patrol downtown;
2) Secure a contract for "clean teams" to clean up human waste in the downtown area;
3) Appropriate $155,000 to support new staff at the Kern County Homeless Collaborative in order to expand and implement services.
4) Pursue a partnership with the Kern County District Attorney's and Sheriff's Offices to reserve 100 County jail cells for low-level offenders arrested through a Community Prosecution Program.
These steps are in addition to the City's newly-created Rapid Response Team responsible for investigating and clearing encampments on private property around the City. Those crews, created thanks to money from the Public Safety and Vital Services Tax (Measure N), have already cleared nearly 100 reported encampments since August.
PSVS will also provide $4 million to create a facility to house 100-300 emergency shelter beds. Staff was directed to secure a purchase or lease for a property recommended for that facility.
The City and council recognize and understand this is a serious and complicated issue that has no simple solution. Staff is working hard to alleviate the concerns of the public and also provide resources to those individuals who need them most.