Opinion: Bringing Historical Perspective to Homelessness Discussions

Homeless crisis is often treated as if risen up out of a vacuum

On the Highway 1 shoulder, near River Street, an encampment has sat backed up to the rear wall of Housing Matters since summer. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

Editor's Note

Steve Palopoli Profile Photo

I think what’s been missing from a lot of the discussions around homelessness in Santa Cruz is a sense of historical perspective. Every time there’s a “new” homeless crisis, it’s treated as if it’s risen up out of a vacuum. In truth, the city has been dealing with its homeless population more or less the same way since at least the Loma Prieta Earthquake aftermath. The latest ordinances approved by the City Council, for instance, are really just an update of the infamous local camping ban that began drawing heavy protests in the early 1990s, and was eventually declared unconstitutional.

In this week’s cover story, Jacob Pierce takes a deeper look at Santa Cruz’s legacy of homelessness, from the city’s reputation for shuffling encampments around to the more successful and innovative approaches, including those by local housing advocates. Ultimately, he seeks to answer: What solutions to homelessness have really worked here? And can they work now, when, thanks to the pandemic and our ever-mounting affordability issues, the problem is worse than ever? What he reveals is essential to finding a way out of our all-too-circular—and now fully spiraling—crisis.


Letters to the Editor



What a wonderful article! So interesting and informative. Carl is an innovative Renaissance man—what an interesting life full of so many experiences. Liza Monroy’s writing jumps off the page, making the story lively and providing background and insights into the surfing world.

I look forward to meeting with Carl to design a surfboard appropriate for my skill level (beginner) and age (senior). I’d love to learn and further enjoy the ocean!

Thank you Good Times and Liza Monroy!



I’ve noticed one thing: for being such a laid back liberal town, Santa Cruz County, city council and the Downtown Association really don’t care about local businesses, or for the livelihood of anyone but themselves, and are pretty much useless in trying to help small businesses out. It comes off as they would rather fine them for every penny they got than try to use reason and logic. It’s kind of like a soccer mom Mafia. This is pretty cold.

  Danny G.

Leave it to Santa Cruz to pick who they want to be in business and who they don’t! It makes me sick the way they are allowed to do whatever they want, to whomever they choose, and always get away with it.

— Pamela


Santa Cruz Mayor Donna Meyers’ name was misspelled in “Camp Counseling” (GT, 3/17). We regret the error. 

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