Written by Angela Landes (News Writer)
In the conclusion of a long court battle, the city of Santa Cruz has been given permission to evict the residents of San Lorenzo Park and to set up a managed camp nearby. Ever since November 2020, dozens of protesters have physically prevented police from evicting 200+ residents of San Lorenzo Park in Santa Cruz City. The city had cited issues such as damaged grass, voluminous garbage, and human waste in the park as reasons for the eviction, but the Santa Cruz Homeless Union took the City Manager Martin Bernal and other city officials to federal court, proving not only that these claims were false, and that the city was neglecting to provide the proper restroom, garbage, and upkeep services they are obligated to provide. Because of this and other evidence, the federal court allowed a permanent restraining order which expired recently this March.
At the court date when Federal Judge Susan Van Keullen was deciding to or to not allow the restraining order to expire, the city of Santa Cruz proposed that if they were given permission to evict the benchlands and San Lorenzo Park, the city would construct a city-sanctioned camp with marked spaces for tents and a given set of rules for people living in this sanctioned camp located in the benchlands next to San Lorenzo Park. Judge Van Keullen agreed and allowed the restraining order to expire. While this new camp will have over 100 spaces and will be available to all current residents of San Lorenzo Park, the general consensus among them seems to be negative. “This is not a legitimate attempt to help us,” claims Mike, a long-term resident of the park, “there is no way that all 200 people living here are going to be able to fit in that camp. And regardless, the reason so many people live here is that we were pushed out of a camp exactly like that in that location before. They’re just trying to push us around.” Aster, a person who frequently uses the park but lives elsewhere has similar thoughts. “I come here all the time. For the most part, there aren’t many problems to be concerned about. There sure are fewer problems than in my apartment complex, that’s for sure. The city simply kicks houseless people around and out of sight until they either die or leave, with no good reason. This managed camp is supposed to have a rule against “aggressive swearing.” How do you expect people who are being so often harassed and targeted by people to not use profanity every once in a while? It’s like they want excuses to kick people out.”
Despite the opposition, some people seem to be in acceptance of the change. Lily, another resident of San Lorenzo Park says, “I’ve been living here in town ever since high school, and this is just how it is. The cops come in and tell us to move, we pack up and go to a different spot nearby, and the process continues in circles. That’s just how the city handles homelessness, and some people are too lazy to accept that.”
The city has planned to have this new sanctioned camp set up by a week from now, and plan to evict San Lorenzo Park after. There has been much community interest and involvement in this issue, and seeing it develop has brought many mixed feelings with the people involved.