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Caltrans Serves Notice to Vacate Los Gatos Homeless Camp at Old Town

Cleanup effort is said to begin 72 hours from Wednesday afternoon, according to Caltrans officials.

The property where a group of homeless people have set up camp for years behind Old Town Center in downtown Los Gatos belongs to Caltrans, officials said this week.

And its occupants seem to have vacated the area, according to Caltrans workers who inspected the site on Monday and Tuesday.

About seven individuals have been making their home there for several months as various nearby merchants and residents complained about the problem. However, security personnel at Old Town Center and those who want the spot cleaned up say the homeless have been there for years, helped by good Samaritans in Los Gatos and St. Luke's Episcopal Church.

Evidence of the hardship of their living conditions is the alarming amount of trash that's been left behind down a steep slope that drops from the south wall of Old Town Center to a water canal that used to be the Los Gatos Creek, but is now the Lexington Dam spillway, said Caltrans spokesman Bernard Walik.

Last Friday, after being contacted by Los Gatos Patch about the issue, Walik said he notified his regional maintenance manager about the camp and began inquiries as to whether the property belonged to Caltrans.

On Monday Oct. 8, the agency was still trying to sort out who was responsible for the property. The Town of Los Gatos said through Los Gatos-Monte Sereno police Sgt. spokesman Kerry Harris that the land didn't belong to the town.

"The area in question is very hard to reach and probably [would] require individuals to rappel down the hill," Walik said.

Caltrans officials spoke to Los Gatos engineers and were searching for maintenance agreement records for the site, he added.

This week, on Tuesday morning, Walik said he visited the area with maintenance personnel and met with town engineer Kevin Rohani and Steve Regan to assess the property.

At 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Caltrans posted a 72-hour notice for individuals to vacate the area, although Walik said the homeless seem to have left.

"We've been working with homeless people and organizations that care for the homeless for many years. We do our best to interact with homeless people in a respectful and humane manner. When we post the sign advising of our intention to clean out the camp, we list a phone number people can call to claim their belongings," Walik said.

Caltrans plans to send in contractors in the next coming days to review, quote and develop a plan to cleanup the area. A fence near the Los Gatos Creek Trail foot bridge that was cut open will be temporarily repaired until the area is cleaned, Walik said.

Caltrans will then install a permanent fence to deny access to the agency's right-of-way as is standard procedure across the state, he added.

Walik indicated Caltrans will also work with the Santa Clara Valley Water District to monitor the area and strive to keep individuals from gaining access to state and water district property after the cleanup and repairs are complete.

"What [our maintenance team] thought would be a quick-fix turned out to be a more extensive repair," Walik said.

A more permanent repair during the transition to clean the area has been selected, and on Tuesday and Wednesday Caltrans workers lined up the field support they needed to "move as quickly as possible, while provide people plenty of time to vacate the area," Walik said.

The new fence to secure the camp site and the littered slope, about 75-feet-wide by 60-feet-down, is more secure than previous ones that were broken down, Walik said.

Tim Lundell October 11, 2012 at 02:06 PM
The problem that dare not speak its name: the homeless community in Los Gatos. The Patch is indeed correct that St. Luke's Church and service groups in Town spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars providing food and necessary care to these individuals. And yes, they are individuals, some with children, each of whom has a history and story of life's path that brought them to the Creek area and elsewhere. It is a large task trying to help them make life liveable and to address the health and legal problems that further complicates their situation. But there are Los Gatans, including members of our police department, who do their best to put compassion into action. Which is more that can be said about the merchant and CalTrans solution: "Not our problem, Clear 'em out!"
Larry Arzie October 11, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Well said Tim.
Jeanne Rajabzadeh October 11, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Serving the needs of the homeless does not come with an easy solution. I'm sure it would not be their first choice to live outside. They are still homeless, now in another spot. We have just kicked the can down the road, so to speak.
Brenda Hammond October 11, 2012 at 04:47 PM
The SCC Board of Supervisors approved a pilot program to provide housing vouchers to the homeless. Maybe we could work on getting some of these vouchers for our local homeless? I found this information, http://100khomes.org/blog/in-santa-clara-county-a-new-funding-model-for-counties-ending-homelessness Tim, is the Morning Rotary part of the group that has worked on providing food and care? Most restaurants don't have a lot of wasted food at the end of the night but I would bet as a group we probably have enough to feed the homeless people in our own town. We would just need an organized effort.
michael kane October 11, 2012 at 07:08 PM
brenda, los gatos morning rotary is part of the group that provides food. every other month we deliver (mostly) canned goods according to a specific menu of "needs and preferences" supplied by jo greiner, director of the st. luke's pantry project. one week before delivery, we take in cash and money card donations and go shopping. the week of delivery we take in food donations committed to vis-a-vis an "evite" list. then we load up the cars and go stock the shelves at st. luke's. if anyone would like more information, please contact our president, scott savage at smsavage@hotmail.com. michael kane
K October 11, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Feeding the homeless is not the problem here. The problem is living conditions. While living outdoors is for some a choice, for others they have no other place to live. Living outdoors however in unplanned communities means living in conditions that lack sanitary conditions, bathrooms, garbage disposal etc... It is also a problem for those in traditional housing nearby who are also trying to live their lives. As nice as it is to feed those in need, without a housing plan, garbage management and 24 access to bathroom facilities it creates other issues affecting an even larger population and breeds unhealthy living conditions and quality if life for all. Can the Rotary or those with resources consider the broader scope? Is there a location that limits the number to help in transition, but allows support for those finding themselves in need? Is there a way to help those move on from this situation? With these other issues addressed - then and only then is the help a forward movement towards a workable solution. ...not an easy feat but the broader picture.
Laura Ricksecker October 11, 2012 at 10:49 PM
I have seen nothing said about these homeless people bothering the businesses in Old Town or the nearby residents. If we barely know they are there, they are causing no trouble, they are seeking help through St. Luke's and other sources, then it seems to me the only problem here is the accumulated garbage. There must be an easy solution for that. We need to remember that most of us are a paycheck away from living in our cars; one more step and we are homeless. It can happen to anyone, so it's best not to assume the worst about them.
Julian Groft October 12, 2012 at 04:17 AM
i feel your spirt tim on this one, i live in sf and theres a whole bunch of homeless...there just people like u and me, no need to treat them like trash like the caltrans solution
Gabe Roberts October 12, 2012 at 05:25 AM
I hope the people that were living there have found a safe place, and while I am not particularly a proponent of forcing individuals out who are living along spots like this, this particular one was a severe problem and particularly poor location. I'm noticed perhaps half a dozen other encampments between Lexington Reservoir and Lark Avenue that appear to have people living in them, but they are more secluded. This one was physically adjacent to one of the most trafficked areas of the trail, and I can't see it existing without being a conflict. While support and solutions for the homeless should be encouraged and worked towards, some spots are just particularly bad for a camp. I also must note that I've never witnessed the people who appeared to be residents causing any other problems on the trail.
Gary Hinze September 07, 2013 at 11:28 PM
There are solutions to homelessness: http://losgatos.patch.com/groups/around-town/p/a-solution-to-homelessness

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