Santa Cruz Police clear homeless people and their belongings out of the former Camp Ross—now known as Camp Phoenix—on the corner of Highway 1 at River Street Friday. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

SANTA CRUZ—Dozens of homeless people were roused by police officers in their tents early Friday morning at Phoenix Camp, the unsanctioned encampment behind the Gateway Plaza at River Street and Highway 1 in Santa Cruz.

The message was clear: the residents were trespassing on city-owned property, and they had two hours to pack up their belongings and leave.

At the same time, city officials were offering alternative places for the residents to go, including the sanctioned campground at 1220 River St., said Santa Cruz City spokesman Ralph Dimarucut.

The residents were also offered places to temporarily keep their belongings, Dimarucut said.

“They are giving them time to move,” he said. “Everyone else has been cooperative.”

Several displaced residents said that they were never given any shelter options, and said that the ones that exist are either full or too restrictive.

Jeff Fowler, who is confined to a wheelchair, said police officers simply told him to leave.

“They just told me I was trespassing and that we had to get out of there,” he said. 

Fowler said that he had no plans to go to an alternative shelter.

Dimarucut said that city staff and workers from Encompass Community Services were planning to stay at the site to help people find other places to stay.

Workers were going to repair the fence once the camp had been cleared, Dimarucut said. The city will also add security guards to keep people out, and possibly add lights to the area.

One woman was arrested Friday morning for trespassing after she refused to leave the site. She was booked into Santa Cruz County Jail in lieu of $500 bail, jail records showed.

Formerly known as Ross Camp and Gateway Camp, the site was closed in May, and more than 200 people were displaced. Workers later removed thousands of pounds of debris and belongings.

Santa Cruz City officials then closed the area. Campers began to return on Nov. 8 when someone cut a hole in the chain-link fence and then cut off a lock, Dimarucut said.

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA.


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