Friday, Aug. 13, Editorial in the Santa Cruz Sentinel:
It was a refreshing wake-up call to hear how Santa Cruz police handled the latest protest of the city’s camping ban by homeless activists.
The time for warnings has passed, said Deputy Police Chief Kevin Vogel, and demonstrators who show up and sack out at City Hall will be cited.
The SCPD has years, if not decades, of trying to work with activists, who seemingly ignore the fact that Santa Cruz, city and county, provide far more homeless services than most other communities in the country.
The city’s ban on sleeping in public places didn’t materialize out of thin air, but was enacted with other regulations because residents long ago said enough was enough with having to wade through downtown crowds of panhandlers, drunks and small-time dope dealers, who give the legitimately homeless a bad name.
Santa Cruz’s reaction to an incipient demonstration this week stood in stark contrast to what happened outside the county courthouse on Ocean Street for nearly six weeks. Activists, vagrants and homeless folks set up camp, seemingly thumbing their noses at law enforcement and county officials, who took weeks to begin cleaning up a situation that had become intolerable for many county employees trying to get to work and for visitors to the courthouse.
Finally, sheriff’s deputies moved in, and the camp moved out. Some of the campers then tried to move their protest to Santa Cruz City Hall.
We agree with Santa Cruz City Councilman Don Lane, who has long worked to support shelter services for the homeless, that people sometimes fail to make the distinction between protesters and transients — and those who by circumstance or health find themselves without shelter and need help.
We also hope protest supporters read Thursday’s Sentinel report, which quoted Monica Martinez, executive director of the Homeless Services Center in Santa Cruz. Martinez noted that while there were no shelter beds available the day she was interviewed, only five people had signed up to be placed on a waiting list. Every Monday, she said, beds open for those who need shelter and that people who really want a bed will almost always get one relatively quickly.
If camping ban protesters need a place to sleep, the center is located at 115 Coral Street in Santa Cruz’s Harvey West area and the phone number is 831-316-5000