Santa Cruz 'Benchlands' homeless encampment to move


SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - The homeless encampment in the Benchlands of San Lorenzo park in Santa Cruz is set to be relocated.

The camp has seen a sharp increase in people over the past few months and will soon become a thing of the past.

The city's original plan was to have a new designated space to move everyone by December 15th, but various road blocks prevented that from happening.

"The challenge was just finding a site that was sort of vacant and available, and also you have the impacts to neighboring businesses and working with them" says Santa Cruz City Manager Martin Bernal.

City officials have agreed to move the encampment from the Benchlands to a site off of River and Vernon Streets. It was originally going to be used as a storage site for the homeless community.

Officials say rules here will be more strict. There is expected to be enforcement on what they can bring in, also rules on when and how much people can go in and out.

"What we have at San Lorenzo Benchlands is not what we plan to continue, what is going to happen is going to be a much more highly managed and maintained facility," says Bernal.

Officials say the new site will have 24 hour security and though it's about a mile and a half from the San Lorenzo Benchlands, it is right down the street from the Homeless Services Center.

They are hoping individuals will use this space as a stepping stone on the path to finding a home.

"It's also not a place where people can be there forever, the expectation is they'll be there, hopefully will provide them time to stabilize, get them services to move on and better their lives."

We spoke with one person who lives nearby, and he says he doesn't mind that the encampment will be right next door. Neighbor Ki Park says there have been homeless services at that site in the past and there has never been any major issues. "Personally, and I think I can speak for my house, we're okay with it," says Park.

The city plans to have the new space open by mid January, but that's not the end goal.

"Our desire is to have homeless services and a year round shelter, we don't have a year round shelter, but to have a year round shelter in a building, in an appropriate facility that our first choice, first and foremost. This is all temporary while we get there," says Bernal.


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