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Santa Cruz Police Chief responds to growing homeless population at former “Ross Camp”

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) Less than a week after tents first popped up again behind the Gateway Plaza, a growing number of Santa Cruz homeless have moved into the area off River Street.

It’s the same place an encampment that was shut down by the city of Santa Cruz in May, and the city said it will work to keep a camp site from forming at that location.

As of Thursday, there are roughly 40 tents. The area is being monitored by homeless advocates.

“A totally different situation. The homeless union is helping to manage this camp, along with food not bombs as well as volunteers,” California Homeless Union president Alicia Kuhl said.

However, the Santa Cruz police chief says that didn’t work last time so why would it now?

“We’re not going to tolerate activists that are encouraging people to live in that location,” Santa Cruz Police chief Andy Mills said.

Currently, law doesn’t allow police to kick the campers out, because of a circuit court ruling which prevents enforcement of people that have no other place to stay.

Thursday the fire chief stopped by and the department will daily to make sure the camp is following fire code. For now residents say this is the only place they feel safe and think it can work.

“I want it to be how it was supposed to be, not how we let it get away,”  Brian Funk, who lives in the homeless camp, said.

Mills said they already made an arrest at the camp Wednesday for drugs.

In two weeks, city council will discuss creating a camping ordinance which would help police enforce the growing number of tents.

“You shouldn’t have a tent up during the day,” Mills said. “It doesn’t make sense. You’re occupying space that’s really for the entire city, both residents and homeless, as well as people coming to visit our city.”

Police said the city needs to provide some storage options such as barrels for belongings too.
In total, there are seven ordinances that will be rolled out aimed at solving some issues, but the chief acknowledges this will only be the start.

“The mental health and the drug addiction piece is what’s driving this, and there has to be a bigger discussion about this on the county, the state and the local level,” Mills said.

The city has not sanctioned the newly created homeless camp, but the activists say they will hold their ground so the homeless have a place to stay this winter.

Central Coast / Santa Cruz / Santa Cruz County / Top Stories

Drew Andre

Drew Andre is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.

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