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Benchlands encampment seeing sharp increase in homeless

Santa Cruz Benchlands homeless...

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - There has been a sharp increase in recent years among the homeless population in Santa Cruz county, and one encampment seems to be growing daily.

Many people say with the housing market crisis in the area, they do not see the homeless population going down anytime soon.

"Everyday there's new tents," says one county employee.

The encampment known as the Benchlands behind the Santa Cruz County building on Ocean Street is growing.

David Carr who works in the building tells us he sees more people here daily. And hes says with more people comes more crime.

"It's growing, you know we see drug use and ya know domestic abuse and maybe they'll install cameras or something cause I only see it getting bigger," says Carr.

Carr says its gotten so bad that some of his coworkers are scared to walk anywhere by themselves.

"If there's any like going out to lunch by themselves I'll ask if they want to walk together cause unfortunately that's the sad reality of it. Ya know we shouldn't have to walk in fear just to go to lunch and take a walk along the river."

Over a span of 15 minutes we did see Santa Cruz County Sheriffs and Rangers patrolling the area.

Greg Pensinger, a project manager with the Downtown Streets Team says volunteers are out near the levee daily helping clean up.

"Our levee crew is out there seven days a week doing beautification work and outreach to the folks living there, and ya it's increasing there's no way to sugar coat it, it's increasing down there."

There are wash stations and porta potties that the city has provided in the midst of the hepatitis a outbreak and while it is promoting more cleanliness, some think that's part of the reason more people are flocking to camp here.

The downtown streets teams says despite concerns, they are going to keep reaching out to the homeless community to get them involved with projects throughout Santa Cruz County.

Some of their main goals are to change the way people perceive the homeless and help homeless people set goals for themselves.


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