Santa Cruz grapples with crime, drugs and … homeless services

A line of people stretches along the front entrance of the Homeless Services... ( Matthew Hintz )

No issue has so divided the greater Santa Cruz community as providing day-use services at the Homeless Services Center.

This issue has continued to heat up for a variety of reasons:

  • The public’s perception that transients continue to be a visible, often unwanted, presence in the city, county and downtown Santa Cruz in particular;
  • The persistent drug culture in the county along with public inebriates;
  • The numbers of mentally ill people on the streets and in public places;
  • Illegal camping in the hills and along the San Lorenzo River by transients;
  • Crimes that many neighbors and residents associate with people using the center;
  • The role of the center in housing felons stemming from the AB 109 prison realignment initiative;
  • The Homeless Services Center is located just off downtown at one of the busiest intersections in the county and on city-owned property;
  • The center gets more city money than any other social service agency;
  • And a longstanding, persistent outcry that Santa Cruz is a magnet for transients from other places mainly because of the support and services available here.

In coming months, the Sentinel will be examining some of these issues in depth.

But in the wake of recent crimes and violence, the rhetoric surrounding homeless services seems to have ratcheted up, as we reported this past Sunday. Santa Cruz for decades has prided itself on being a tolerant community that also cares for the less well off.

But this very tolerance has been increasingly questioned, as many residents have complained about crime, drug abuse and what they see as a lack of accountability and scrutiny of some services provided in the community. In particular, an unregulated needle exchange program has been a hot topic at recent City Council meetings, as outraged residents blame the program, and other services, for discarded syringes, drug crime and drug sales in the city and surrounding areas.

The homeless center points out that of the 1,100 people who received day services at the center last year, 65 percent were receiving emergency shelter and nearly 30 percent were able to get help with mental illness issues or addictions. The center’s executive director, Monica Martinez, told the Sentinel that putting limits on day services will work at counter purposes to the issues of homelessness in a community where housing costs are high and jobs are scant.

But critics say Santa Cruz cannot be expected to solve a national problem — and that day services contributes to an ongoing public safety problem.

The city owns the 60,000-square-foot property on Coral Street and leases it to the Homeless Services Center for a nominal rent of $3,400 a month. Santa Cruz also provides more funding for HSC — $184,000 overall for the center, including $42,000 for day services — than for any other social service program or agency out of the annual $1 million spent last year on social services.

City Councilwoman Lynn Robinson has been the primary elected voice asking that the upcoming budget review for the next fiscal year take a close look at funding for the homeless center, which includes four distinct programs, including the day services center. The issue appears headed for an overdue, and justified, city review.

The Homeless Services Center provides a much needed helping hand to many people  in tough circumstances and we think most Santa Cruz County residents continue to support this effort. But it’s time to figure out if providing day services at the  center is a factor in crime and drug problems as well.

This post is the Santa Cruz Sentinel Editorial for March 20, 2013

This entry was posted in Crime, culture, Economy, education, Environment, Health, History, Local news, Opinion, Politics, state news. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Santa Cruz grapples with crime, drugs and … homeless services

  1. Thank you for finally pointing out the glaringly obvious. u00a0

  2. Erik Bovee says:

    This is a great editorial, Don, and it outlines many of the issues very clearly. u00a0 I think it’s very difficult for Santa Cruz to handle overwhelming issues of addiction, mental illness and homelessness that need to be addressed urgently at the state and federal level.u00a0

  3. Chavez Chavez says:

    Don, I think it’s great that you and your team are finally reporting on the obvious crisis we’re facing.u00a0 Better late than never.u00a0 These services should be defunded and discontinued.u00a0 The money should be offered to the elderly.u00a0

  4. Giannini David says:

    Thank you foru00a0shining a public light on this open sore. What we as a city are doing isu00a0enabling drug related crime. From the “needle exchange” which does not exchange needles, but provides free IV drug user “Starter Kits”u00a0u00a0along with free needles, to the no questions askedu00a0recyclingu00a0center where stolen metal (mostly from ripped-off bicycles) is exchanged for cash, to the Homeless Services Drop-in Center where drug addicts get a free ride, with no accountability, to the tolerance pastu00a0electedu00a0officials have had for the drug culture, we have provided a “Haven” for drugu00a0dealers and users.u00a0u00a0nnAs a direct result of these failed policies the city violent crime rate for 2010 was higher than the national average by 140%. The property crime rate was higher that theu00a0nationalu00a0averageu00a0by 75%. Projections for 2013 are even higher.nnPlease continue to investigate and report.

  5. Anonymous says:

    All the references I have seen is $187,000 to HSC from the city of Santa Cruz, and $143,000 for the ex-convict re-alignment project to HSC.nnPlease continue with the hard facts.u00a0 But, please back this up with true support for our community.nnAnd, despite some of our civic leaders declarations (esp. Neal Coonerty), crime in Santa Cruz is higher than most of California, and higher than some of the Country at large:nnhttp://www.cityrating.com/crime-statistics/california/santa-cruz.htmlnnnSanta Cruz crime statistics report an overall upward trend in crime based on data from 12 years with violent crime increasing and property crime increasing. Based on this trend, the crime rate in Santa Cruz for 2013 is expected to be higher than in 2010.nnnThe city violent crime rate for Santa Cruz in 2010 was higher than the national violent crime rate average by 140.94% and the city property crime rate in Santa Cruz was higher than the national property crime rate average by 75.52%.nnnIn 2010 the city violent crime rate in Santa Cruz was higher than the violent crime rate in California by 120.75% and the city property crime rate in Santa Cruz was higher than the property crime rate in California by 95.9%.

  6. mumbofish says:

    Dear Mr. Miller, I’ll keep harping on this until hell freezes over, the people in this country are suffering from poor nutrition, too much preservatives in our food that can shut down parts of the body. I can only think of the thyroid and mercury which is similiar to iodine an uptakes it, blocking the thyroid from producing hormones like t3, t4, t2 and t1. Your t4s power up your bodie’s cells, t4s are reserve hormones until your adrenal gland makes cortisol to strip the t4 of one iodine molecule. Your receptors then take the converted hormones i.e. t3s powering up your bodie’s cells, including the brain. Why do people use stimulents? We need to eat highly nutrious foods. Thank you, a infrquent reader (sorry don’t always have time) Mumbofish

  7. mumbofish says:

    Excuse me, t3s power up one’s body’s cells, t4s are reserve cells. Come on folks, the info is out there, read about it, it may prolong your life, friend’s life, family members or anyone of whom you care for.

  8. mumbofish says:

    Also, mental illness went up with the addition of perservatives in the 1940’s. It has been documented.

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