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The Fierce Urgency of Now

by Santa Cruz City Councilmember Drew Glover
This Wednesday I went to the “Ross Camp” with some of the interns that work with me at the Resource Center for Nonviolence to get an update on the situation and to engage people in a conversation about poverty. As we arrived we met Mel Nunez, a dedicated advocate for the poor and representative from our local faith communities. [Photo: The view of the Ross Camp from the River Street side.]
We joined him in passing out anti-microbial “Bombas” socks, fresh apples, salad greens, spinach and water. It was almost immediately after we arrived that people began to approach us expressing their need for food, materials and clothing.

One man asked if we had any bandages. We replied, “no, we are sorry” as he proceeded to gently lift up his pant leg to expose a hole in his shin, about the diameter of a tennis ball. The oozing wound had been painted over with what looked like plaster in an attempt to protect it from infection. I had to look away because it was so bad. We encouraged him to go to the Homeless Persons Health Project to get treatment and then we continued to walk through the camp.

As we reached the far end, Mel showed us the hole that had been cut in the fence by residents for additional access and fire safety. Community members from the surrounding area have suggested moving the main entrance off the river walk and over to River Street, but after assessing the terrain it seems like that may be difficult.

As we walked back though the camp and distributed the last of the apples, the glaring reality that we had an insufficient amount of materials on hand was clear. I am encouraged to see many private citizens and non-profit groups have stepped up to offer mutual aid, harm reduction and compassion to the people in the camp. As a City, we need to be doing more.

We need action NOW in Santa Cruz, not more reports or updates. Conversations and brainstorming is always important, but now is the time we need action. That is why I have been working for the last three weeks, alongside fellow Councilmembers, interns, advocates and people experiencing homelessness, on creating actionable policies that can be implemented now. We have solutions for the camps, solutions for RVs and car camping, solutions for zoning and the bureaucratic obstacles that have slowed action in the past. We have solutions for access to bathrooms and hygiene facilities, survival materials and more.

There are those within the City Council that support the items for action at this next Council meeting on February 12th, and I applaud them. However, there are those who are slowing us down. Specifically, it is the Mayor that is making it difficult for us to take any action at the next City Council meeting.

After having submitted the attached items for the agenda, Mayor Watkins refused to agendize the issues citing the reason that it would make the meeting go “too long” into the evening. Instead, we will hear a report from the City Manager’s office and the Homeless 2x2 Committee made up of reps from the City and the County. After speaking with staff, it is my understanding that these report-based agenda items will not allow for any action by the City Council other then to instruct staff to look into additional research.

I believe that this illustrates a severe lack of urgency regarding this issue. Instead of taking action that can help alleviate the pressure our communities are feeling from the results of homelessness, and the suffering being experienced by those who are currently unhoused, the Mayor has agendized more discussion. I can understand what they Mayor may be trying to do and I think she is a good person, but needless to say, I am disappointed.

So, now, I turn to the community for support.

Join me. Join me in demanding action. What I need from you is to write letters to the Mayor, and the rest of City Council, urging them to prioritize the items that I submitted. Let them know that now is the time for action and continued delays will only exacerbate the problem. Your letters will go on record and provide me with the support I need to help encourage my colleagues to act.

You can see all of the draft agenda report and draft ordinance language here:

Email them at this address: citycouncil [at]

Thank you for your compassion. Thank you for your energy. Thank you for your dedication to equity, justice and to ensuring people, no matter their economic status, are ensured their basic human rights.

In community and solidarity,
Councilmember Drew Glover
City of Santa Cruz
dglover [at]
by Santa Cruz City Councilmember Drew Glover
Mel Nunez and Resource Center for Nonviolence interns Bernardita and Jannike distribute materials and food to people at the camp.
§Emergency Access
by Santa Cruz City Councilmember Drew Glover
Mel shows Bernardita, Jannike and I the hole in the fence at the back of the camp that has been created to provide additional fire safety and an emergency access point.
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