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After Tent City

sanlorenzoSanta Cruz homeless land back on the streets

 

The homeless people who were camping in San Lorenzo Park are once again returning to life before Occupy Santa Cruz. The Armory, a shelter in Santa Cruz that offers up beds for homeless people during the winter, tells GT that they’ve seen a 50 percent increase in capacity since Thursday, Dec. 8. The shelter is now almost at full capacity.



The 2011 Santa Cruz County Homeless Census and Survey reported that the local homeless population had increased by 22 percent since 2009. In 2011, 77 percent of the homeless people observed in Santa Cruz were unsheltered. Currently, there are not nearly enough beds offered in homeless shelters around Santa Cruz to house the entire homeless population. More than 2,700 homeless people were counted in the county in the 2011 census, although the agencies behind the project estimate that more than 9,000 persons experience homelessness each year in Santa Cruz County.

“There are good [homeless] services [in Santa Cruz] in some respects yet there is clearly not sufficient shelter and supportive housing,” says Vice Mayor Done Lane. “I would add that this is a problem in virtually every community in the country—there are limited resources locally and nationally to provide some basic services.”

GT talked with a homeless man named Dave, who explains that he preferred staying in Santa Cruz despite the limited availability of shelter space. “It’s less violent here than in bigger cities like Oakland or San Francisco,” he says. “Lately I’ve just been camping in more hidden away places in the park. As long as you wake up early, you don’t typically get found and cited.”

He speaks of the encampment in San Lorenzo Park, which he dubs “Tent City,” fondly, and feels that, in many ways, it was like a community. “I’m surprised that the county let it go on for so long actually,” he says. “But people looked out for each other there. Sure, there were fights, but we were able to work it out with each other. More people should’ve taken responsibility for cleaning up the area though.”

Another local homeless man, who identified himself as Lynn, tells GT that the end of the San Lorenzo Park occupation has led to a Diaspora of homeless. “Now more people are going to be spread out, over in places at the boardwalk and such,” he says. “I guess that becomes a problem when more tourists come in to Santa Cruz, but that probably won’t be until the summer.”  

Lane offers his personal thoughts on the issues that were raised by the camp at San Lorenzo Park: “The encampment [at San Lorenzo Park] helped with the nationwide Occupy effort to raise general economic issues of income inequality, large corporations’ excessive influence over our national government and an unfair tax system,” he says. “It also raised the issue of whether maintaining an encampment is, in fact, a first amendment issue. And it highlighted the issue of how many people live on the street in our area.”

In another interview, GT asked a homeless veteran named Rick if he feels that the encampment and protest at San Lorenzo changed anything. He believes it hasn’t. “I’m fed up,” Rick says. “In the end, the camp didn’t stand for anything. I’m still in the same situation I was in before Occupy Santa Cruz got going.” He adds that a number of OSC members, including him, are planning on heading to Oakland soon to go help with the Occupy movement there.
  

Comments (4)Add Comment
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written by Homer Gerrard, December 17, 2011
Another place for our stinky hippys and homeless to cry about a cause and have a free cup of coffee and a tent
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written by Brentugly, December 13, 2011
In many respects the camp at occupy Santa Cruz was profoundly successful. I encourage all who read this to look past the problems which are endemic in society and our community of friends living on the street. let's envision a new encampment supported by local government the citizens of our community and partially underwritten by some large developers and landowners whose land lays follow and actually a blight on our community. As a compassionate community that is clearly peopled by those resting above poverty line we can work together to create a safe sanctuary for our homeless people to sleep in peace.
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written by L. R. Evans, December 13, 2011
The OSC camp provided necessary services they weren't getting elsewhere for those in our community most in need, especially during the cold and rainy season: food, shelter, medical treatment, community, conflict resolution, addiction counseling, non-violent communication training, empowerment and integration. Where are those campers now? Dispersed but not forgotten. Cold but not forgotten. Hungry but not forgotten. I want to collect the personal stories of individual transformation that you witnessed...please reply here and let's collect these stories and send them to the Sentinel, the Good Times and all the local media for a follow-up story. Where are they now? What can we do to help? You can take away the camp but you can't take away the people. Or the need. As more Americans face job loss, medical problems and foreclosures...you will see more and more people living outside, attempting to survive. Will it have to be you or someone you love for you to act? Why wait? Santa Cruz County needs to provide for it's citizens that make up this great community: the homeless, the renters, the students, the homeowners, the business owners, all of us. Stop catering to tourist money and start taking care of your own. Thx.
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written by X, December 13, 2011
Great article - I participated on and off with OSC and was surprised by the sheer amount of people that ended up at the camp over time. It gave me brief contact with the reality of living on the street, and I saw the amount of people that were staying outdoors on cold nights in my own town. At the time it shattered my strong-bred (and I mean strong, I'm from San Francisco) tendency to dismiss the situation of homeless people and put the first real evidence I had seen of economic insecurity in front of my face.

I think this movement, and if not this one, then others in the future, provides us with an opportunity to create a more genuinely democratic system that future generations can benefit from. Hopefully we can change not only the way we treat our own citizens but the way we behave toward other nations. It seems to me our only option is to be optimistic about our chances and work toward the goal of a more sustainable and egalitarian society worldwide.

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