Local “Outdoor Living Ordinance” Threatens Unhoused People With Criminalization in Santa Cruz

Written by Angela Landes (News Writer)

On February 23, the Santa Cruz City Council held their first reading of a new “Outdoor Living Ordinance” that is to be voted on soon, spearheaded partially by local police chief Andrew “Andy” Mills. Among other things, this ordinance would make it illegal to have an outdoor shelter such as a tent set up between 8 AM and 8 PM, and would “redline specific areas” where unhoused people cannot legally live, as mayor Donna Meyers put it at a city council meeting. The council voted in favor of the ordinance and scheduled to vote again on March 9th during their second reading, but the council received much public backlash from the way the zoom session was conducted. In addition, there was a cutoff of public comment before half of the slated people were able to speak, the city council members had not reviewed the ordinance before they voted to endorse it, as council member Justin Cummings admitted at the meeting. 

Opponents of this ordinance argue that it would be detrimental to the unhoused community. Local community member Tyler J. tells us, “This ordinance is a clear attack on unhoused people. People are already worked to death having to walk miles to their jobs, sleep in the rain, have inaccessible food, and not be able to hold onto legal papers because the city has relentlessly driven them out of sight into the most inconvenient and faraway corners of town. This ordinance would do nothing but make it harder for folks already struggling daily, and hide poverty from the upper-class rich folks in town.” People who support this ordinance however have a very different view. Judy M. who supports the ordinance says, “I can’t stand to see these tents every day. These parks should be empty so that the lawns are completely available to the public to use, not these homeless bums taking up space.”

This ordinance has caused much public outcry and some hostility. Hopefully, this riff in the community will be resolved as the public awaits the next city council meeting on April 13 where the ordinance will be further discussed.

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