Rainy weather raises concerns around Santa Cruz County homeless encampment already flooded out

Wednesday’s rainstorm is stoking fears that flooding that occurred two days ago could again swamp a Santa Cruz homeless encampment.

Drove video provided to KTVU shows the shocking juxtaposition. In one of the wealthiest areas in the world, hundreds of people living in squalor. The drone video showing an encampment in San Lorenzo Park flooding slowly during Monday’s hours-long rainstorm.

"I just be down there because I got friends down there all the time. So I was down there helping them, move their stuff," said a unhoused resident who only identified himself as Kyle

Wednesday, newly-elected Mayor Sonja Brunner held an impromptu news conference in front of Santa Cruz City Hall.

"We are in an emergency crisis every single day," she said.

Brunner said city outreach teams were at the homeless encampment as early as last Friday, before the storm. They implored the estimate 300-plus residents living in the Benchlands area of the park to leave.

"The people who were left in the flood, did not heed that warning. And so we are saying for folks to please just stay away from that area right now," said Elizabeth Smith, the city’s communications manager.

About 50-to-60 residents have been moved temporarily to the second floor of a parking structure near the park, to keep the out of the rain.

Tuesday night, the Santa Cruz city council debated more permanent measures to help some of the estimated 2,100 unhoused people living in Santa Cruz County.

"We allocated over four-point-two million dollars in American rescue plan act funds to go to homelessness services," said Lee Butler, the Santa Cruz deputy city manager. Added Mayor Brunner, "we have to continue making progress. Whatever small steps we can, do make a difference."

City leaders are grappling with long-term solutions that might involve coordinating efforts to help the unhoused. But in the near term, they’ll move the people living in the parking structure to another location once the current rainstorm passes.