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SCS Year In Review 2022

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March 8 homelessness up- date. A f ter some f its and starts, the city launched a two-month closure strat- egy in September. A phased zone-by-zone approach al- lowed officials to displace hundreds of denizens de- spite vacancies in fewer than 150 available city-of- fered replacement spaces, as many camp occupants chose alternatives to the new 24/7 camps. Most visi- bly, a concentration of tent encampments sprung up in the city's Pogonip park and nearby, along the Highway 9 corridor leading out of town. According to city esti- mates, there were 225 indi- viduals staying in the park at the time the evictions began — the same census number first shared by the city in November 2021. With the help of city outreach workers funded by the one- time homelessness grant, some of those leaving the Benchlands were able to ac- cess spaces in more estab- lished homeless shelters, get into rental housing or relo- cate to rejoin family mem- bers, though no exact statis- tics were available, city offi- cials said. According to city Home- lessness Response Manager Larry Imwalle, 241 people were given notice to exit the Benchlands camp — of- ficials say that number likely includes some duplicated in- dividuals who moved deeper into the camp as each sec- tion closed. Of those, 95 peo- ple, or 39%, elected to move to the City Overlook, com- prised of 135 spaces inside of and on the grounds of the National Guard Armory in Delaveaga Park. Before the phased clo- sures began, the city-funded 1220 River St. camp opened w ith approximately 27 spaces in January. The City Overlook, which offered 75 outdoor tent sites and 60 in- door tent spaces inside the building, came fully online by September. Ten of the City Overlook program's spaces are mandated to re- main empty, used only as overnight sleep sites for police to deliver individu- als without alternative ac- commodations. In a quarterly home- lessness update to the City Council on Dec. 13, officials shared some fruits of their efforts working with indi- viduals associated with the camp. City workers counted some 217 individuals who had registered for a space at the City Overlook since May. Of the participants, 20 — about 9% — had moved into housing or a more sta- ble shelter, 45 — nearly 21% — have received case man- agement services from out- side agencies, 20 were gain- fully employed and five be- came Downtown Streets Team members. At the self- managed 1220 River St. program, with 27 spaces, 17 participants out of a to- tal of 56 who had registered — about 30% — had moved into housing or more stable shelter since January. Funding for the city shel- ters' ongoing operations and a host of new home- lessness-oriented staffing is set to expire in the fall of 2023, absent a new fund- ing stream, according to the city's quarterly update. Huffaker told the council that his staff had been pur- suing several funding op- portunities, including out- reach to other jurisdictions in the county to seek addi- tional contributions toward shelter services, talks with state Sen. John Laird's of- fice, consultation w ith Santa Cruz County on po- tential funding streams and consideration of future rev- enue measures. "We've made some tre- mendous progress this year and much of the work that we've been able to stand up is vulnerable without a sus- tainable funding stream," Huffaker told the council. Timeline • October 2017 — March 2018: In the midst of a lo- cal Hepatitis A outbreak, former Santa Cruz Police Chief Andy Mills announces relaxation of the then-ac- tive homeless encampment ban during the nighttime while rousting those who slept around the down- town post office and Town Clock. Those looking for a safe place to sleep begin to converge in the Benchlands, where the city set up porta- ble toilets and hand-wash- ing stations. The city later disbanded the Benchlands encampment for the final time when it launched its first city-managed encamp- ment program at its 1220 River St. lot. • September 2018: Police informally deemphasize en- forcement of the city's no- camping ordinance in the wake of the U.S. District Court of Appeals 9th Dis- trict ruling, "Martin vs. Boise," which prohibited criminalizing homelessness through anti-sleeping laws. • November 2018 — May 2019: As the 1220 River St. camp closed and drought- related fire orders push homeless individuals out of city parklands, hundreds of people came together at an unsanctioned encampment behind the Gateway Plaza Shopping Center, creating what was often dubbed the "Ross Camp." The camp later is disbanded by po- lice after a court order cit- ing health and safety condi- tions sides with the city of Santa Cruz. • March 2020: In the early days of the corona- virus pandemic outbreak, the city of Santa Cruz urges Food Not Bombs leader Keith McHenry to situate his daily free meal service to San Lorenzo Park, away from the city core and park- ing garages. An encamp- ment soon followed. • July 2020: Santa Cruz County launches an approx- imately 60-person fence-en- closed encampment in San Lorenzo Park Benchlands f loodplain, displacing ex- isting campers elsewhere in the park. • November 2020: The county moves its encamp- ment to the grounds outside the National Guard Armory in Delaveaga Park, ahead of inclement winter weather. The city of Santa Cruz urges remaining park oc- cupants to move to higher park grounds. Inside the ar- mory, a city-funded home- less camp has been in op- eration since January 2020, when it shuttered its former 1220 River St. tent encamp- ment. • December 2020: The city of Santa Cruz initiates planned three-stage up- per San Lorenzo Park en- campment closure, mirror- ing camp closure efforts on- going elsewhere in the city at the time. Protesters, cit- ing federal Centers for Dis- ease Control and Preven- tion COVID-19 recommen- dations, stall police action and several members of the local homeless community secure a federal court in- junction halting the camp closure. • May 2021: In a court- negotiated agreement, the city sets up a 120-site sanc- tioned encampment in the park's Benchlands area be- fore clearing out the upper parkland camp. • June 2021: Santa Cruz notified it will receive $14 million from the state, a set- aside for addressing home- lessness. • July 2021: Federal court judge dissolves injunction barring city from shutter- ing the San Lorenzo Park encampment. • March 2022: Santa Cruz City Manager Matt Huffaker announces goal to close Benchlands en- campment by July, part of a three-year strategic plan. • September 2022: First of seven "zones" of the Benchlands encampment is noticed, fenced off and later cleared by police. • November 2022: Final zone of camp is cleared. Homeless FROM PAGE 1 A homeless man interacts with Santa Cruz Police officers in September as he removes his belongings from the north end of the San Lorenzo Park Benchlands. PHOTOS BY SHMUEL THALER — SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL FILE A loader removes abandoned belongings in November from vacated campsites. WE'RE HERE UNTIL HUNGER ISN'T Thank you to our Santa Cruz Community For food or to donate, thefoodbank.org | 800 Ohlone Parkway, Watsonville, Ca. 95076 $1 Donated = 4 Healthy Meals! 20 22 What a Year! 11,597,676 Pounds of Food Distributed 1,896 Volunteers 14,263 Volunteer Hours 9,278,814 Meals Provided | | SANTACRUZSENTINEL.COM SATURDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2022 2 C

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