Homeless people camping on beach by Santa Cruz boardwalk sparks concerns

More than half of the homeless population in Santa Cruz County live in the city of Santa Cruz, and now officials say homeless people are setting up tents and camping at the beach along the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Despite "No Camping" signs posted along Main Beach, lifeguards say between 10 and 20 tents have popped up in the last few weeks near the wharf and the San Lorenzo River, with homeless people living inside.

Visitors are taking notice of the situation.

Beach go-er Freddie Oronia was visiting Santa Cruz for a first time Monday. 

Oronia, who lives near Bakersfield, said that when his family claimed their spot near the Santa Cruz wharf around 8:30 a.m. Monday, he was surprised to see six tents already set up on the sand. 

"I noticed the tents right away. I said, 'Wow. They let you camp out at night?' Then I come to find out they were homeless people that spent the night," said Oronia.

Several beach-goers expressed sympathy for those living on the streets.

Others, including workers at one nearby restaurant, expressed concern about needles and safety around the popular tourist destination.

"I didn't know they were allowing them to be on the beach like this. It's not good. Not good for tourism. Kind of sad," said Cathy Lynn of Auburn.

Lifeguards said they have alerted park rangers and Santa Cruz police.

Efforts to reach city officials and police Monday were unsuccessful.

As for Oronia, he said the homeless people he saw never bothered him and that the beautiful beach and weather are reasons for him to return.

"I love it. I'm coming back. Homeless or not," said Oronia.