To: Santa Cruz City and County Governments
Santa Cruz Sanctuary Camp Endorsement
Support the establishment of a sanctuary camp in Santa Cruz for the betterment of all.
Why is this important?
The idea of HOME is sacred.
We can all appreciate the value of our own place to lay ourselves down
and have a little peace as we rest and prepare to greet the day and the world outside.
Many among us don’t have this special restorative place, in fact, there are an estimated 1,500 people without a safe place to rest in the City of Santa Cruz, and another 1,500 people in the county. We, the undersigned believe there is a way to provide this to everyone—A Santa Cruz Sanctuary Camp, a designated area where people can rest, keep their things, build community, and find the support they need to rebuild their lives.
Well meaning citizens have assumed the local services would provide what these folks need, but over the past years we’ve seen that despite the many day services provided, 95% of homeless folks still fend for themselves out in the cold dark night as they sleep out in the open. Emergency shelter space can be a 2 month wait and many report that they are never admitted at all. Maximum bed space is enough for only 5% of the homeless population.
Consequently, most of our homeless population sleep out in the open, in bushes, in doorways, and in the woods in violation of the city ordinance which bans sleeping after 11 pm. This illegal camping exposes homeless people to inclement weather, violence and theft from others in the homeless community, harassment from vigilante groups, and scorn from the rest of the citizenry. Often the desperation one feels when sleeping out in the open exacerbates other existing conditions like mental illness and drug abuse. It is nearly impossible for someone who has become homeless to rebuild their life when forced to sleep in a bush and carry the last vestiges of their life in a backpack on their back.
Besides the toll homelessness takes on the individuals who are forced to fend for themselves, local homeless experts have admitted that the amount of money spent on homeless is unquantifiable. The range of “services” provided is very large and includes emergency medical/ambulance, law enforcement/jail/courts, mental health etc, and the amount spent on these annually can easily climb into the tens of millions. That doesn’t include the several million dollars spent on actual homeless services. The amount is staggering when we realize how few people are actually served.
Sanctuary Camps provide safe and grounding spaces for individuals to address substance abuse, mental illness, and emotional problems. People could learn about services available to them, and have support around taking medication or staying sober. Besides offering assistance to the county’s homeless population, a Sanctuary Camp would improve the city overall, reducing general vagrancy in residential, business and tourist areas, decreasing crime and police calls for homeless issues, and setting aside natural areas as places for recreation, not homeless encampments. Examples all over the country demonstrate that with Sanctuary Camps communities are safer and cleaner, and homeless people are better able to move up and out of homelessness.
Santa Cruz Sanctuary Camp proposes the establishment of a pilot camp of between 25 - 50 residents to demonstrate its effectiveness over the winter. This will require a 1 acre piece of land on city, county, private or church property. Additionally the camp will request a garbage dumpster emptied weekly. The camp will use 1 porta-potty per 20 persons. A list of rules will be enforced 24 hours a day at the gate staffed in rotating shifts by a Responsible Person and a Support Person with the support of an external Steering Committee. The camp will be bound by an Art Wall and and Entrance Portal. The camp will have good relations with local authorities, the media and the community at large.
We, the undersigned, encourage our city and county elected officials to allow the creation of a Sanctuary Camp and to form a partnership by allowing use of a small parcel of land and a dumpster service contract. This camp will cost very little, but will do so much.