City Beat Blog

Thursday, Apr 17 2014 04:55 PM

CITY BEAT: Man home again after 22 years

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    By Theo Douglas/The Bakersfield Californian

    Longtime homeless Bakersfield resident Arthur Misener pets his dog, T-man, in the dining room of his new duplex apartment. Misener moved in April 2, with assistance from the Bakersfield Police Department, Flood Bakersfield Ministries and Home First.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Californian city government reporter Theo Douglas.

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By THEO DOUGLAS, Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

It's just a humble duplex, but for 60-year-old Arthur Misener, it represents impossible progress.

Misener, a former plumber who suffers from health issues including kidney problems, has spent more than one-third of his life homeless in Bakersfield.

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ABOUT YOUR REPORTER

Theo Douglas covers municipal government for The Californian. He writes in this spot every Friday. Contact him at tdouglas@bakersfield.com, at Facebook.com/TBCCityGov or on Twitter @TBCCityBeat.

He moved here from Arkansas in 1992 to be near his brother -- unaware his brother was moving east, and upon arrival he fell into homelessness. For nearly 23 years.

Having had a roof over his head for the extended period of nearly three weeks is not a first, but a rarity.

"There were a couple periods of time, nine months, and another couple of months," Misener said, recalling brief periods of housing as he spoke to reporters at his new home in the 3000 block of Q Street.

His pitbull mix, T-Man, wagged at the homeless advocates and Bakersfield police officers who helped change Misener's life.

Misener's biggest hurdle, he said, was drugs and getting sober. He's been clean for about two months.

Establishing contact in January with Bakersfield police Officer Jaime Getz was another huge step.

Getz worked with fellow foot patrol Officer Scott Lazenby and both worked with Flood Bakersfield Ministries, Home First and Teen Challenge to get Misener housing.

"I joke with them, they're like Tootsie Roll pops, they have this hard shell after years of being on their own," Lazenby said of building rapport with Bakersfield's homeless. "Once they realize we're not going to give up on them, they really soften up."

Getz said changes can happen when people are ready to change.

For Misener, it happened in January, but like many longtime homeless, he lacked the basic documents we take for granted like our Social Security cards and state identification.

Flood helped get those and when officers located him -- with no fixed address that was hard -- he went house hunting.

"He was easy," said Rosalina Allen, Flood's outreach coordinator. "As soon as we pulled up, he liked it."

On move-in day, April 2, Misener wasn't the only one who cried.

"He bawled and I bawled and we cried together," said Kim Albers, Flood's executive director.

A federal housing voucher pays Misener's $500 monthly rent with $11 to spare. Another voucher pays his utilities, though after he applies to collect either Social Security or disability payments, he will pay a portion of his own rent.

Asked how he was adjusting to having a home, Misener equated the process to getting sober, saying: "Mostly, I turned it over to God."

NEW PLANNING COMMISSIONER

Approving a nomination from Ward 2 Councilman Terry Maxwell, the Bakersfield City Council voted 4-1 Wednesday to appoint downtown resident Bryan Williams as the city's newest planning commissioner. He will replace Elliott Kirschenmann, whose four-year term expires April 30. Ward 1 Councilman Willie Rivera voted against affirming Williams; two councilmembers were absent.

Williams is a senior field representative for 2nd District Kern County Supervisor Zack Scrivner.

Maxwell said Williams' public service experience -- and lack of previous planning commission experience -- made him the right choice.

"I want to always think in terms of 'It's a one-term sort of a proposition.' Let that person get out of the way and apply what they've learned elsewhere," said Maxwell, who discounted any loss of institutional knowledge, saying, "Not at all. I think these are all bright, intelligent young people and I hope they take that knowledge and apply it elsewhere."

The council also appointed southwest Bakersfield resident Brady Bernhart, an administrative analyst at Community Action Partnership of Kern, to the city's Historic Preservation Commission.

He replaces Cynthia Icardo, whose three-year term expired March 30.

SPAY-NEUTER, OIL NEWS

Two new concepts will be considered by the Bakersfield City Council's Legislative and Litigation Committee -- after which point they could go to the full council for discussion. Or not.

One is the notion of a spay-neuter ordinance mandating city residents fix their pets or face consequences.

The other is the idea of doing something to keep hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" -- the controversial but highly effective oil extraction technique -- alive in Kern County as oil companies face what lawmakers like state Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, have said is an increasingly tortuous permitting process.

THOUGHTS ON PANHANDLING

Social media-ites were quick to discuss on Facebook the Bakersfield City Council's approval Wednesday of an anti-aggressive panhandling ordinance:

Kuka's Folkart: "The key word is 'aggressive.' As a small business owner, I support it."

Kira Bakeworks: "This is seriously government gone wild. 'Aggressive solicitation?' So totally subjective. It's pretty simple. People ask for money. Say no. I lived in the Haight and had this happen every time I left my apartment. Unbelievable that the government and police should be involved."

Jeffrey Tkac : "I would like to know the penalty when you are caught for aggressive panhandling. I would also like to know if it includes jail time as our jails are already overflowing. I am all for it but unfortunately I'm afraid the resultant law will have no teeth in it.

"Sadly, I think it is a Band-Aid. Most all panhandlers have a drug problem and that is where the problem really lies, just when we're unwisely legalizing more drugs, wrong answer!"

Lou Medina : "I wonder what's going to happen to people who do car washes to help pay for funerals -- they solicit money from passersby. Will (they) not be allowed to do that anymore?"

Lisa Kimble Edmonston : "Does this mean the fraud at the (Highway) 178-Mount Vernon offramp will have to take his sham act and sign and finally go home?"

Tom Webster : "I don't suppose this applies to politicians ... ."

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