Depot Park Homeless Camp Issue

Dear Parents and Members of our Club.

As many of you are aware, the Santa Cruz City Council voted 4-3 on Tuesday, March 19th to relocate a portion of the "Camp Ross" homeless camp to the Depot Park North Parking Lot.  We wanted to let you know that we are aware of this situation, and are actively working with the Depot Park neighbors and businesses to address this issue.  The safety of our kids is our number one priority, and we are working hard to ensure that our soccer practices and games continue in a positive environment.  We will be sending updates of our efforts to keep you well informed.  Please reach out to members of the Board of Directors with any suggestions or ideas you may have.  We all need to work together to create a positive and safe outcome for our kids.

Here is the full text of the letter that was sent to City Council by Santa Cruz City Youth Soccer Club:

 

Santa Cruz City Council Members,

The Board of the Santa Cruz City Youth Soccer Club (SCCYSC) strongly opposes your decision to locate a “temporary homeless encampment” on the Depot Park North site. We are writing to explain to you why this location presents a significant risk to the youth of Santa Cruz.

The purpose of SCCYSC is to further the education and development of soccer players between the ages of 5-18 years of age and, on behalf of these players, to develop, promote, and administer the game of soccer at the competitive and recreational team levels. SCCYSC covers the area of the school districts of the City of Santa Cruz, Happy Valley, Bonny Doon, and Davenport. We are committed to promoting positive play and coaching so that players can compete, learn and enjoy the game of soccer in an atmosphere of safety and good sportsmanship.

The Depot North site borders the Depot soccer park, where many Santa Cruz youth (aged 5-18) practice and play soccer every day of the week, often into the evening hours. On an average day, 110-130 Santa Cruz youth, the majority under 12 years of age, practice in Depot Park. Additionally on Saturdays and Sundays, other youth teams and families from surrounding cities come to Depot to compete against Santa Cruz teams.  We want them to feel safe as well.

SCCYSC has pre-paid approximately $36,000 for fields use at Depot Park through November 2019, using the majority of its field budget to reserve the Depot soccer fields.  Already, the use of the public bathroom, water fountains and park play area present challenges for families. Often, these areas cannot be safely used by youth or their families because of presence of homeless individuals, many with substance abuse and/or mental health issues, who yell at and/or approach children. Adding the encampment nearby will exacerbate the difficulty and is likely to create health and safety risks for children. Incidents of violence, spreading of diseases, and waste contamination present tangible risks to youth who continually use the Depot area. While we do understand that the encampment will be officially operated between 9pm-6am, it is inevitable that the surrounding area (soccer fields) will be affected during active playing times. We are concerned that parents will not feel comfortable leaving their children at Depot Park, and coaches and team managers will have to spend their time addressing safety concerns. The temporary homeless encampment has the potential to create serious liability issues for the SCCYSC and for coaches, team managers and other volunteers.

We understand the need to address our local homeless crisis in Santa Cruz. However, no location in close proximity to where our youth regularly gather should be identified for a homeless encampment. Many within our homeless population struggle with mental illness and substance abuse. Providing a homeless encampment in an area where youth frequent is ill considered and reckless, particularly in the absence of extensive provisions for security and a lack of proper safeguards to protect the public’s health. It is the duty of the Council to act responsibility in the interests of our City’s youth. The safety of our children must be the first priority. We kindly request that you reconsider this decision with the safety of Santa Cruz youth in mind.

Sincerely,

Santa Cruz City Youth Soccer Club, Board of Directors

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