Luncheon combats rise in homelessness

Alex Gutierrez, Reporter

The Bakersfield Downtown Business Association hosted a luncheon at the Westchester Event Center for the fight to take back downtown from all the developing conditions on Oct. 24.
In attendance was a lot of business owner in the downtown area along with very prominent people in local and state government, such as Senator Shannon Grove, Assemblyman Vince Fong, Mayor Karen Goh, Bakersfield Councilman Andre Gonzalez, and District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer, all of whom were keynote speakers in this event.
The luncheon’s purpose was to directly combat the growing homeless population in the downtown area. Many businesses are challenging the current state-of-affairs as they believe the growing homelessness issue is ruining business for these local shops.
Reasons include homeless camps being set up along the buildings of these businesses, and the rising crime spike in the area, which is allegedly the result of the increasing homelessness.
Some business owners also expressed their issue with the vandalism that’s also occurring all over downtown, from graffiti to destroyed properties.
According to the Downtown Business Association this issue getting worse, The DBA is also coordinating a plan to provide a deeper communication within the businesses to keep each business and property owner updated with what is happening in the neighborhood in a forum that discusses these issues.
The forums and updated information would be gathered by a block captain, something that was also legislated at the luncheon.
These blocks are expected to update their area in homeless and crime-related problems. However, there will not be multiple blocks consisting of each city block.
These newly proposed blocks would be strips of businesses and property owners running along both sides of the street for an extended distance.
With crime and vandalism continuing, the DBA has mentioned that the downtown area is still safe and should not keep anyone away from utilizing these businesses and services.
They also spoke briefly about how great, historic and intertwined with Bakersfield life these businesses are, such as Fox Theatre, The Mark and many more.
Downtown Bakersfield is always at the center of controversy concerning crime and homelessness, and for that reason movements like Block to Block Empowerment focus on such things to provide a safer place for the business, property owners and the community as a whole.