SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - The new River Street Camp is now accepting campers from the homeless community.
As the camp fills up, officials are working to get the Benchlands Encampment cleared out and cleaned up in time for the Santa Cruz Music Festival on March 10th.
On Wednesday, camp program directors began the intake process which includes signing an agreement to follow the camp rules and regulations. "We have intake reservations for a little over 60 people and depending on how today goes it could be more than that," says City of Santa Cruz Principal Analyst Susie O'Hara.
O'Hara also says there have been more and more people showing interest in staying at the new camp, which is something the City will try to work with as it only has room for roughly 50 tents. "There's been a lot of interest which we're really happy about. We've had a number of people express interest just here today that hadn't last week. So I think that there's going to be a lot of demand. So over the next couple of weeks it will be about how to manage that demand and ensure that we can get as many people in there as we can," says O'Hara.
While the camp is open Wednesday, not everyone will be forced to leave the benchlands right away. O'Hara says those who have reserved a spot at the River Street camp will have several days until they have to move from the Benchlands, "for folks that have a reservation for the campground that don't come over today they can stay tonight and possibly tomorrow night."
Those who do not have a spot reserved will have to leave the Benchlands.
The new River Street Camp will have several amenities for those who stay and follow the rules. The camp that is costing the city more than $90,000 a month will provide security, storage, hygiene stations and hot meals.
Program directors say if people double up in tents, the site can hold up to 100 individuals.
The outreach program did focus on those staying in the Benchlands, but city officials say it is open to others in the homeless community.
On top of the city doing outreach, the Santa Cruz Police department also reached out to the Homeless community on Wednesday to survey every unsheltered individual in the city. According to the department, a total of 251 surveys were completed. More than 500 homeless people were contacted by police.
“It can take many contacts to encourage people living on the street to accept services,” said Police Chief Andrew Mills. “Every person has their own story and path to the streets. It is essential to find out where they are from and how they got here. And to extend resources."
89 citations were issued and 28 arrests were made, according to SCPD.
"These arrests and citations were for warrants, possession of illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia, littering, open containers, trespassing, and loitering. 6 vehicles were towed and impounded," said SCPD spokesperson, Joyce Blaschke.