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Santa Cruz City Mangler Closes Civic Auditorium Shelter

by Robert Norse (and Matt Huffaker) (rnorse3 [at]
Yesterday, City Manager Matt Huffaker sent me his first-ever e-mail in response to my denunciation of the closing of the Civic Auditorium Emergency Shelter as torrential rains approach.
E-Mail Sent to the Community (including City Manager Matt Huffaker):

LATE FLASH: The Civic Center Flooding and Wet Weather Emergency Pop-Up Shelter—open for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights—is reportedly closing down in spite of 8" of predicted rain by Monday. A worker reports that folks were ousted at 9 AM on the order of the new Mayor (Fred Keeley), some still unable to secure their property indoors, though staff are within denying entrance (as of 1 p.m. Saturday). 

There is no indication that the Civic will reopen as emergency shelter in time for torrential rains predicted for early next week (as well as showers through the weekend)

So, the City is spending money harassing homeless folks in the rain (see below) but refuses to extend Civic Auditorium shelter in spite of flood conditions. 

City homeless funding is still unaccounted for. 

City shelter programs are inaccessible to the majority of those outside. 

Now, as for the last few years, there has been no drop-in winter shelter as in past years.

The City has refused to fund Brent Adams' Footbridge Services—causing the only free storage program in town to shut down along with his laundry, women's support, and other daily services.

To comment on this harsh but typical policy, contact City Mangler Matt Huffaker at mhuffaker [at] or the new Santa Cruz Mayor 'Fast Lane' Fred Keeley
at fkeeley [at] .

On the Thursday netshow described below there is also a brief interview with Arnie, a Civic Center Shelter occupant on Wednesday night, who reports he was harassed and directed to move along twice by police in the rain, and even threatened when under the parking garage shelter ("be gone by 8"). [Interview at (8 or so minutes into the audio file)]

Mr. Norse,

To be clear, it was my decision, in consultation with our Emergency Operations Center Team, to close the temporary emergency shelter at the Civic Auditorium. While our team, with County support, did tremendous work to stand-up the shelter in short order, the Civic is too large and resource intensive to continue operating over an extended period. I want to recognize the many City staff that proactively worked to outreach to those in flood prone areas prior to the storm.

With that said, we are actively working with the County to stand-up additional warming centers. We will share more details with the community as these resources come online.

Take care, Matt

Matt Huffaker
City Manager
City of Santa Cruz


In response, I sent the following e-mail back:

Thanks for your prompt response, Matt. 

I have many questions regarding the City's current shelter options and expenses. I'm hoping you'll be able to direct me to the answers or provide them yourself in the days ahead. My first question, if you have a quick answer, is what was the per night expense of opening the Civic as Emergency Shelter? How does that compare with the total budget you've set aside for shelter (or more realistically, police expenses for harassing, citing, and/or arresting those unsheltered outside)? What would persuade you to open the Civic or its equivalent for tomorrow night and throughout the winter as emergency walk-in? What would be required in costs and volunteer labor? 

I ask these questions because they are not theoretical and have a direct impact upon those swept outside and the community generally. And they are, of course, time sensitive.

I'll be playing your e-mail on tomorrow's netcast at 9:30 AM on (archived at ) around the same time. I will add answers you provide to the netcast.

I'm also cc-ing our correspondence to other homeless activists for their thoughts.


So far I've heard nothing from him.
I wasn't able to reach any additional City information at City of Santa Cruz Facebook page at the address mentioned on the attached flyer. However for those who have trouble reading the attached flyer, here is the text:

"Emergency Shelter at Depot Park! Temporary Emergency Shelter opening at 8 PM on Monday January 9, 2023, and operated by Santa Cruz Free Guide. the shelter will be in the Freight Building at Depot Park 119 Center St., Santa Cruz for anyone needing to get out of the rain overnight. This site will be open 8 pm - 8 am through Thursday, January 12th at 8 am.

For current information, see the city of Santa Cruz Facebook page at this address: "

This half-assed response of an open-during-the-night-only shelter receives some pertinent and scathing comments on the City's facebook page. Could the City Manager be trying to save face on the cheap?
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