"We've had some success stories," says Sgt.Corey Beilby

A barrage of programs aimed at getting Taft's homeless off the streets are apparently having an effect.
The number of unsheltered homeless in Taft has dropped by about two-thirds, a Taft Police sergeant told the Taft Midway Driller.

For the past several months Taft Police and the groups that work with the homeless have been unanimous in estimates of about 35 people who have no place to stay but the streets, alleys and ditches in the area.

Now, Sgt. Corey Beilby said, there are only about a dozen.

"We've had some success stories," Beilby said.

Beilby has been working for the past couple of years with the homeless collaborative seeking solutions to the problem in the Taft area, and is also working with a City of Taft committee on homelessness and vagrancy.

Beilby said there are a variety of reasons.

Some have found homes through voucher programs offered by outreaches like Flood Ministries.
Others have entered residential programs, like the Mission at Kern County, while others are in drug rehab.

Some have found lodging with their families
Others are in jail, Beilby said.

Police have been taking a more aggressive approach to people being arrested on multiple warrants ― not just the homeless ― and many are being transported to the Kern County Sheriff's central receiving facility in Bakersfield instead of going to Taft Jail.

But just because there are fewer homeless in the community, that doesn't mean a corresponding drop in scavenging and panhandling, Beilby said.

The sergeant said many people who have homes will go out for recyclables and even ask people for handouts, especially later in the month when government benefits have run out.

The local homeless problem has been the target of several different nongovernmental organizations and, more recently, the City.

Flood Ministries, the Mission at Kern and the local Together We Can Collaborative have been working for several years, and, in the fall of 2018, the City of Taft appointed an ad hoc committee including Beilby, Chief of Police Damon McMinn, city councilmen, planning commissioners and city staff.

The drop in the number of people living on the streets here comes just a couple of weeks before a county-wide homeless census.

At 4 a.m. on January 30, teams of volunteers will fan out through communities in Kern County, including Taft, to get a one-time snapshot of the homeless population.