SANTA CRUZ: Closure of "Ross" homeless encampment put on hold, for now

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - Any end or closure date for the Ross homeless encampment has been put on hold for now as Santa Cruz city leaders discuss how to transition those living at the camp site into shelters.

The past few weeks the city has been discussing a March 15 closing date for the encampment.

Advocates for the homeless say a closure should not happen without a transitional space in which the displaced homeless can stay.

The city agreed and is now discussing possible transitional encampments and safe overnight parking or sleeping spaces for the homeless.

"The one-size-fits-all shelter model does nothing for those who are ready to be helped and want help now," said Brent Adams, with the Warming Center Program. "Our numbers have shown for years that those sort of models keep those people within their homeless circumstance."

And for some, those "homeless circumstances" started out because of a housing market considered unaffordable to those who tried to move to Santa Cruz not too long ago.

Austin Jones and Jade Fowler are two individuals who hoped a good-paying job would be enough to thrive in the Santa Cruz community.

Jones ended up unemployed, leaving both of them on the streets for the first time and for an extended period of time.

"It's just so expensive, anyone can end up in this situation," said Jones.

Fowler says the city has been helpful, with both of them noting that they're seeing more listings for shelters posted at the Ross encampment than they have seen before.

"I've never been homeless in my life, and this is just very recent and hopefully temporary," Fowler said.

Both say some "vigilantism" from residents is making it harder to live at the encampment but they're doing what they can to begin the transition into a shelter.

"I don't think it's unfathomable that anyone could end up homeless by just missing one paycheck," said Fowler.

The city says it has approved funding to reestablish a shelter at 1220 River Street, a few blocks from the Ross encampment.

Over the last week the city says 17 campers accepted vouchers for shelter but only six transitioned into a shelter.

The signs initially warning campers of a closing date, meanwhile, are to be replaced with a list of shelter options in the area.

The city is set to continue its discussion on the Ross encampment and homelessness at its next council meeting on March 12.

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