Bakersfield, Kern County look to revise homeless ordinances

August 30, 2021 /

Following Los Angeles approving a new bill to restrict homeless encampments, Bakersfield and Kern County are also looking to revise homeless ordinances.

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti signed an ordinance on July 29 prohibiting sitting, sleeping, lying, and storing personal property in places such as building entrances, at freeway underpasses and in public parks.

Using funds from the Public Safety and Vital Services Measure, Bakersfield formed rapid response teams that will respond to complaints of homeless encampments. City workers are required to give individuals 72 hours notice before the encampments will be cleared, and offer shelter and services to those who are displaced. If an individual refuses temporary shelter, they’ll have to move on from the area in order to follow the ordinance.

“Just because people choose to not comply with societal standards doesn’t mean they have the freedom to destroy the way of life that the rest of us enjoy,” Supervisor Mike Maggard told KGET. “Destroying the ecosystem of the river, making the bike path unusable for many people. Just because someone doesn’t want to comply with the rules of the shelter doesn’t mean they get to do whatever they want.”

Additionally, Supervisor Maggard stated that if someone declines temporary housing, but continues to break the ordinance, it could lead to an arrest.

Homeless advocates, including the co-founder of homeless advocacy group inthefield661, Azeem Hussaini, expressed their disapproval of the methods that have been suggested, explaining that “sweeps of homeless encampments in parks rarely end up with individuals entering shelters or accepting services.” Instead, Hussaini suggests that the funds that will be used for sweeps be used to build affordable, low-income housing.

The county has yet to confirm what an anti-camping ordinance could actually entail, and the Chief Administrative Officer, Ryan Alsop, highlighted that he wants to make sure it is done right, rather than rushing to implement something that doesn’t produce results for the community.