As the CZU August Lightning Complex fire continues to burn in the Santa Cruz Mountains, members of a local organization are helping the homeless people who have been evacuated from unsanctioned campsites scattered throughout the fire zone.
The organization is now raising money through a new GoFundMe to buy supplies for county residents who were homeless before the fires began. They’ve raised more than $26,000 so far.
The group has used some of the money to purchase tents, sleeping bags and KN95 masks. Money raised will go to purchase supplies or be donated to Food Not Bombs.
“There’s a lot of people who are displaced and in need of support right now, and there’s a lot of big organizations making sure that everyone is cared for,” Santa Cruz County Mutual Aid organizer Max Sokol said in a press release. “But we wanted to fill a smaller role and ensure that people who were homeless before the fires don’t get left behind.”
The group created a list on their website of fire relief resources and opportunities to get involved, along with more details on the group’s projects.
Organizer Dani Drysdale said in a press release that volunteers have seen increased numbers of people in the downtown Santa Cruz area who were formerly living in vehicles or tents in the Santa Cruz Mountains. They were sent into town to evacuate without any kind of sleeping gear or personal protective equipment (PPE), Drysdale said.
Another challenge is that many homeless people are reluctant to go to relief centers, organizer Charcoal Osborn said in a statement.
“They have experienced a lot of harassment in this community and frankly they don’t trust that evacuation sites that are open to the general public are going to be safe places for them. This means we need to get those people outdoor sleeping supplies and some high quality PPE,” Osborn said.
Santa Cruz County Mutual Aid is also accepting donations of tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, unused hygiene supplies and unused N95 and KN95 masks. They are awaiting a shipment of 900 KN95 masks that they say they will distribute.
“This is not about just handing out supplies because we feel bad—this is about meeting the needs that people cannot meet on their own under capitalism,” organizer Sophie Lev said in a statement. “This is about addressing years upon years of structural racism and the impacts it has on our community.”