NOTE TO READER: This is one of the most sickening articles I’ve read in awhile. The righteous indignity all the people quoted in the article display along with absurd claims that homeless people are adversely affecting “the 50 bird species found in the park” while the fate of the people who lived in those six campsites causes nary a thought of concern shows what a morally bankrupt this effort is. When a 20-yr old man is found sleeping in the park at 10:30 AM, he is chastised for “camping overnight” when there was no evidence he had done that. Due to the Sleeping Ban which criminalizes sleeping between 11PM and 8:30AM each night, many homeless people do sleep legally in public places in the day—such as in a 95-acre park way off the beaten track. — Becky Johnson of HUFF
Group cleans up homeless encampment in Soquel park
By Calvin Men
Santa Cruz Sentinel
SOQUEL — Hidden in the hills and brush of Anna Jean Cummings Park — a 95 acre park with playgrounds, flourishing wildlife and baseball fields — is a homeless encampment.
Six known campsites cropped up in the area recently. The sites are noticeable in that there is more visible trash in the park according to visitors and more damage to the environment.
“This is the first encampment I’ve been aware of in the 25 years I’ve been a part of the park,” said Lisa Sheridan, a resident of the neighborhood.
Sheridan was one of roughly three dozen people who helped clear the campsites in the park Saturday morning.
The group was a mixture volunteers from several groups, including Take Back Santa Cruz, the Soquel Neighbors Alliance, Friends of Anna Jean Cummings Park and owners of local businesses. Armed with large plastic bags, paint buckets, grabbers and shovels, the group embarked through parts of the park for six campsites homeless people are known to frequent.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office gave notices telling campers to leave 10 days before the cleanup and Santa Cruz County Parks Department did an initial cleanup, Sheridan said. But there was still an abundance of debris left.
About 10:15 a.m. — less than 10 minutes into the clean up — the group was surprised to find a man in his 20s sleeping. One volunteer was quick to point out to the man that it was illegal to camp overnight in the park. Though her tone was polite, it was still firm as she told him about the notice from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s office to vacate the area.
But as the man was leaving, the group offered him a bag to carry his things and he thanked them.
“It breaks my heart because I have a niece and nephew who have been homeless in this community,” Sheridan said.
The group isn’t there to just chase the homeless out, she said. There is concern for what campers will do to the environment. One example is the coyote bush near where some campsites are, she said.
“If you hack down a coyote bush, it takes away the food for the animals and creates erosion,” she said.
The campsite where homeless man was sleeping had blankets on the ground and was surrounded by discarded soda cans, empty glass bottles, blankets and scraps of toilet paper. Some of the surrounding brush was destroyed.
But within 10 minutes, the area was cleared by the volunteers.
Fred Diaz, of Santa Cruz, heard about the cleanup and wanted to lend a hand.
“I really value the open space and I really hate to see it abused,” he said.
What surprised Diaz the most wasn’t the amount of debris but the fact that there was very well crafted space made. Carved into a part of the sloped hill was a flat surface with steps made out of dirt, perfect for camping.
But the group went to work breaking down the flat surface, filling in the flat space with dirt so it won’t be used as a campsite again.
“Somebody was very industrious in excavating this,” he said.
Follow Sentinel reporter Calvin Men at Twitter.com/calvinmenatwork