“Why has our company allowed this? “

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A freelance photojournalist took photos and video footage on Monday of a water-flooded homeless settlement near downtown Santa Cruz as an atmospheric, moisture-laden river poured rain across the north and central California.

Alekz Londos, a resident of Santa Cruz, said he flew a drone over the large tent district in the Benchlands area of ​​San Lorenzo Park to raise awareness of the need for more affordable housing in the city.

“It’s frustrating when people are lying on the ground in the rain. They are in wheelchairs in the rain. Why has our society allowed this?” Londos spoke of the floods which inundated people’s tents and property. “There is no affordable housing, it is so limited.”

Santa Cruz is often on the lists of the most expensive places to live in the United States, and according to Zillow, the average home value is $ 1.3 million.

The Benchlands camp received a federal injunction in early 2021 and continued to provide a place to camp as Santa Cruz works to develop other temporary accommodation operations, the city said.

The city said in a statement it had sent staff from several departments to the Benchlands encampment and a site at the nearby cemetery on Friday and Sunday to alert campers of the storm and “strongly encourage them to seek higher ground … out of danger .”

The message to leave the area may not have reached everyone. During his visit to the camp on Monday, Londos captured live footage from Facebook and interviewed a man living in a tent who said he had not been notified.

After receiving news of the changing weather and flood forecasts on Monday, the city said it had sent an ad hoc emergency response team to the site which helped support and evacuate people. Londos said he saw some of the workers helping out on Monday.

The city’s public works department opened a temporary shelter in a parking lot for those affected on Monday until the storm subsides. Santa Cruz County provided 100 sleeping bags and mattresses, water cases and 500 prepared meals.

“The sheltering operation at the River Street garage will continue until the storm subsides,” the city said. “If necessary, an alternate temporary location at the Benchlands will be used until the Benchlands are dry enough for campers to return. “

A screenshot showing the flooding of tents at an encampment along the San Lorenzo River in Santa Cruz on Monday, December 13.

Alekz londos

Like many places in California, Santa Cruz is home to a population of homeless people. A 2019 census by the nonprofit Housing Matters found 2,167 homeless people living in Santa Cruz County. The enumeration was done on a single day and probably did not capture the entire population. Shelter space to accommodate everyone without housing is lacking, and across the county there are 617 beds available in shelters, transitional housing as well as COVID Project Roomkey hotels supported by funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Of these beds, 375 are in the city of Santa Cruz.

“The city is setting up temporary transition camps to try to meet the needs, as there are many more homeless people than accommodation beds available,” the city said in a statement. “The city currently has one of the highest per capita homelessness rates in the state.”


Phil Kramer, CEO of Housing Matters, which helps people find permanent housing in Santa Cruz County, said the area has made progress and his organization housed 300 people last year, but it didn’t is not enough.

“We are not meeting the needs,” Kramer said. “There are more homeless people than we can accommodate at any given time. It is appalling for the community. It doesn’t feel like we’re hosting more people in the community… when you visit the Benchlands where people are camping and tragically inundated with their sleep situations. “

A screenshot showing the flooding of tents at an encampment along the San Lorenzo River in Santa Cruz on Monday, December 13.

A screenshot showing the flooding of tents at an encampment along the San Lorenzo River in Santa Cruz on Monday, December 13.

Alekz londos

Londos has lived in Santa Cruz for 32 years and said they have seen the homeless population increase. To help those in need of shelter, he started to build “tiny micro-houses”.

“I have seen the situation worsen over the years and see why,” he said. “It’s a big problem. I think it has to do with the divide between the rich and the poor, the economic fallout doesn’t work. There are drug addiction issues. We don’t have enough health services. mental. “


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