Pogonip homeless encampment clearing to stretch into July as some residents head to armory

An unhoused individual stands outside his tent in a section of Pogonip that was not yet slated to be cleared out on June 5.
An unhoused individual stands outside his tent Monday in a section of Pogonip that was not yet slated to be swept. In the foreground is the remains of a campsite that was within the area that was cleared early Monday.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Crews contracted by the City of Santa Cruz, aided by police, continued the second phase of clearing out Pogonip encampments Monday. Daniel Extine of Clean Team Associates, the Santa Cruz-based company contracted by the city to do most of the clearing, said workers expect to have all six phases of the cleanup completed by mid-July. Residents such as Santos Martinez, 58, were preparing to move to the armory.

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Workers in Santa Cruz continue to clear out the Highway 9 homeless encampment along the Pogonip open space this week in the second of six phases that are expected to last into July.

Residents of the section of the encampment known as area 2 were given notice that they would be cleared out last Friday. Daniel Extine of Clean Team Associates, the Santa Cruz-based company contracted by the city to do most of the clearing, says workers met some resistance from people living in the encampment.

“There’s been a little bit of fight-back just with a couple of people,” he told Lookout. “I’ve been doing these cleanouts now for about 34 years and it’s typically the same people most of the time that are having a little bit of a [push]back.”

The city began clearing the Pogonip encampments in late May after sweeping the adjacent Sycamore Grove. More than 100 people are estimated to have moved into the wooded area after the clearing of the Benchlands last fall. City officials have said the encampment presented an environmental hazard and fire risk. Extine said the team hopes to have the entire encampment cleared by mid-July.

The city had homeless outreach coordinators on the site Monday to offer housing options for those who are going to be displaced by the clearing. While some of the encampments have migrated up the hill toward the railroad tracks, several people have been offered housing at the shelter at the National Guard Armory in DeLaveaga Park.

One such person is Santos Martinez, 58. After spending over a year at the Highway 9 encampment, Martinez, who was born and raised in Santa Cruz, was preparing Monday to pack up his belongings and head to the armory.

Martinez told Lookout he found himself homeless after spending a short time in prison for possession of marijuana while driving. Once released, he said he found that his roommate had sold their house and left town, leaving Martinez with very few options. Martinez says he’d like to find permanent housing, but has had little opportunity to do so.


A Pogonip encampment resident shares his story as cleanup continues

Martinez said he first turned to The Loft shelter, staying for 30 days, then moving on to another Housing Matters program with his former girlfriend, who has since died.

Now, after living in various shelters and in homeless encampments along Highways 1 and 9, Martinez said he hopes to find a less stressful environment for himself, his current girlfriend and their dog at the armory.

“All we wanted was somewhere to go to the bathroom, somewhere to sleep, and somewhere to take a shower,” Martinez said, “and it’s hard for [us] to do that because they’re switching us from place to place and it’s not a secure environment.”

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