Homeless population continues to decline in Kern County

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) The latest report on the homeless population in Kern County is encouraging. For the second straight year, census data show that the number of homeless people is declining.

"I think the numbers tell us that we're being successful. Our goal is to end homelessness," said Jim Wheeler, chairman of the Kern County Homeless Collaborative, the group that carried out the census count.

The point-in-time homeless count is a U.S. Housing and Urban Development-mandated census that provides a snapshot of the local state of homelessness in Kern County. It was conducted over a 24-hour period on Jan. 22 and 23.

Wheeler attributes the drop mostly to additional resources during the last three years, including millions of federal dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and other federal programs.

In 2013, the homeless population in Kern County was 1,152. This year's census count was 1,002, a drop of 13 percent in one year.

It's the first time a homeless census has been done for two straight years. The number of homeless people in Kern County has been declining since 2007, when a total of 1,537 people were classified as homeless.

But, it's not all positive news. The number of homeless children rose from 149 in 2013 to 181 in 2014.

"It's disconcerting to us that number has gone up for the first time," said Wheeler.

Also rising was the number of homeless people staying in shelters, such as at the Bakersfield Homeless Center and the Rescue Mission, going from 547 in 2013 to 587 in 2014, an increase of 7 percent.

But, Wheeler called this a positive sign, saying this means individuals in transitional housing are off the streets and at shelters.