Estimates on how many people are living without a home in Santa Cruz County vary, but recent statistics show that the situation has become drastic. According to the Santa Cruz County Homeless Persons’ Health Project (A program of the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, Division of Public Health) in 2009, 47 homeless people died locally, compared to 20 in 2008. 
Santa Cruz has a large homeless demographic, and often are lumped together with panhandlers (who are not always homeless) and nomads (while technically homeless, may not identify with the former category). It is difficult to categorize the grouping, since the use of the term "homeless" tends to be subjective- sometimes used out of pity, other times out of self-identification, other times in a derogatory manner. In this case, the term "Homeless" will simply mean "lacking a fixed, permanent residence."
However, "the homeless" is a sort of imagined community; in actuality, the homeless are a diverse population, and thus any generalizations one could make would most likely be based on what popular culture ascribes to them, rather than reflecting the true nature of these individuals.
Some people are homeless out of choice, others out of necessity. They may come from across the United States, or may have lived in Santa Cruz for years. A homeless person may be the recipient of an 8th grade education or a PhD in Astrophysics. S/he may be the person on Pacific Avenue asking for money, or the person next to you in a restaurant, or anyone else.
The Homeless and City Ordinances
The city has passed a number of ordinances which some have deemed "anti-homeless laws" designed to "clean up" the downtown area. One ordinance even outlaws the presence of blankets.
Here are a few:
- NONCOMMERCIAL USE OF CITY STREETS AND SIDEWALKS FOR SALES AND SOLICITATION
- AGGRESSIVE SOLICITATION
- LYING DOWN ON PUBLIC SIDEWALKS IN DESIGNATED CITY ZONES
- SITTING DOWN ON SIDEWALKS IN DESIGNATED CITY ZONES
- DEFACING SIDEWALKS
- CONDUCT ON PUBLIC PROPERTY, MONUMENTS, AND LAWNS
- DOGS IN PUBLIC PLACES - PROHIBITED LOCATIONS
- USE OF ROLLERSKATES, SKATEBOARDS, COASTERS AND SIMILAR DEVICES RESTRICTED
- PLACEMENT OF OBSTRUCTIONS ON STREETS AND SIDEWALKS
Resources for the Homeless
Santa Cruz has a variety of resources for the homeless, and those who support homeless rights.
211 - Dialing 2-1-1 reaches the county's social services hotline, which connects people to health and social services locally with over 300 different agencies in their database
Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County: http://www.cabinc.org/TSP/resourceguide.htm Public Health Department, Women's Resources: http://www.santacruzhealth.org/phealth/womens/3womensresources.htm Homeless Garden Project: http://www.homelessgardenproject.org/ Homeless Persons Health Projects: http://www.santacruzhealth.org/phealth/2homeless.htm Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom (HUFF): http://www.huffsantacruz.org/
217 E Lake Ave, Watsonville, CA 95076 (831) 722-2675
The support services offered include: eviction notice/rental assistance; medical needs; food; gas; transport vouchers; and immigration/legalization assistance. Bilingual individual, marriage, or family counseling are also offered.
Community Action Board (CAB) 406 Main Street, Suite 207, Watsonville, CA 95076
CAB provides services for the homeless including employment assistance, temporary shelters, advocacy, and phone voice mail.
Emergency Housing for Medical Emergencies 501 Soquel Ave., Suite E, Santa Cruz, CA 95062 (831) 457-0511
This program provides emergency shelter at hotels for homeless persons who are being released from the hospital. Usually social services at the hospital makes referrals. Ongoing help for people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS or other contagious disease is available from the County. Free.
Families in Transition 210 High St., Suite 105, Santa Cruz, CA 95060 (831) 458-7124
This organization assists in finding job training and housing. Clients need a referral from a social service agency before an appointment can be made.
Homeless Assistance Program 1020 Emeline Ave., Bldg. B, Santa Cruz, CA 95060 (831) 454-4010
Client must be a recipient of or applying for family cash assistance. The program offers temporary assistance for finding permanent residence through motel vouching (not during summer months) for a maximum of 16 days. This is once-in-a-lifetime assistance.
Homeless Community Resource Center 115 Coral St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060 (831) 458-9525
Free meals, bathing, laundry, mail and phone facilities are available. Referrals and job counseling are also offered. Services are available for teens.
Homeless Education Outreach Program 809 H Bay Ave., Capitola, CA 95010 (831) 479-5276
This program helps homeless children enroll in school even when the children have no permanent address. Provides advocacy for the children and their families, tutoring, referrals, and supplies. Services are free.
Homeless Persons Health Project (HPHP) 739 River St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060 (831) 454-2080
This program offers medical outreach to homeless at countywide locations. There is a nurse onsite weekly. Call for more information or for individual appointments. Services are free.
New Horizons School 4575 Capitola Rd., Capitola, CA 95010 (831) 475-0133
This is an elementary school for homeless children which also provides meals, peer and professional counseling, medical and dental care, and other social service referrals. Children can stay until 3pm. Transportation is available. This is a private school—not a shelter.
Pioneer House/SOS 290 Pioneer Ave., Santa Cruz, CA 95060 (831) 459-0444
This is a daytime center for homeless with mental health and dual diagnosis issues. Clients must have a county referral. Open seven days/week.
Shelter Information and Referral Hotline (831) 457-0511
This hotline refers people to shelters, medical treatment, and food. The hotline has the most current resources for homeless services. Voice mail is available to clients (as part of the Community Action Board).
Shelter Project 501 Soquel Ave., #E, Santa Cruz, CA 95062 (831) 457-1741
This program provides vouchers to homeless persons with medical needs allowing them to stay in motels and provides emergency short-term rent assistance to avoid eviction (as part of the Community Action Board).
Mountain Community Resources 231 Main St., Ben Lomond, CA 95005 (831) 336-2553
This center provides referrals and information with some case management for low income and homeless. Advocacy, Healthy Start program, and emergency dental care for children ages16 and under are available. Free car seat program is also offered. The center works with various county agencies on-site (Homeless Persons Health Project, Healthy Families, TANF, WIC) to provide needed outreach to residents. San Lorenzo Valley and Scotts Valley residents only are eligible.
Youth Services 709 Mission St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060 10 Alexander St., Watsonville, CA 95076 24-hour line: (831) 425-0771 (831) 429-8350 or (831) 728-2226
Youth Services provides emergency shelter (foster care) for youths aged 12-18 years. There is a maximum stay of 24-48 hours. Parents are notified.
- Community Action Board An organization to combat poverty, their website lists local shelters and emergency food locations
- Elm Street Mission
- Homeless Garden Project
- Homeless Persons Health Projects
- Homeless Services Center An organization that runs multiple shelters
- Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom Fighting for the rights of the Santa Cruz homeless and poor
- Human Rights Organization
- Imagine Positive Change
-  Johnson, Becky, Homeless Deaths in Santa Cruz County hit all time high of 47, Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom email, December 21, 2009.