It breaks Chad Parker's heart every time he cycles by the homeless camp behind Old Town Center in the heart of Los Gatos.
"It's a growing problem. There are a lot of people out of a house, a home and they're literally trying to build a shelter wherever they can find one. It's sad and this is a tough position for all sides," Parker says.
Almost inconspicuous due to its entrance being covered up with a large black foam pad, it's obvious to many who use the Los Gatos Creek Trail and enter through the back of Old Town Center.
The camp is located next to the center's south wall and drops down several feet to the water canal that runs parallel to Highway 17.
Clean and tidy for a homeless camp, its down embankment, however, is so full of trash that it will take a massive undertaking by town officials to clean it up.
Recently residents have been complaining about it, especially business owners who work near the area.
Those merchants, who wish to remain anonymous, say for many years the homeless have gathered in this spot without the town doing much about it.
"They haven't had much success," wrote one business owner to Los Gatos Patch about the problem. "It appears that recently there is a lot more activity and people living in that encampment.
"I know that a lot of people are uncomfortable with the traffic in and out of the area and the potential hazards due to the garbage and waste created by this situation."
A fence has been put up every week or so to block the homeless' entrance to the area, only to be cut down within the hour after the workers leave, the business owner said.
The merchants also say Los Gatos-Monte Sereno police officers were there about a month ago and removed truckloads of debris, but the area is full of furniture and waste again.
The foot bridge next to the camp's entrance is used by children, youth, runners, walkers and bicyclists, so the camp presents possible dangers to them, they said.
A woman, who identified herself as Kendall Avey, 54, said she's living there with a few men and stressed she cleans up the area daily, but "locals keep harassing us, watching our things at night."
She points to the footbridge's artwork being defaced with graffiti as a sign that others in town are worse offenders. "We're not vandals ... one of the men here has been selling his art, his paintings. He helps at St. Luke's Episcopal Church."
The woman said the people who live in the camp patronize the local businesses such as the nearby 7-Eleven, Safeway and Walgreen's.
She said a recent cleanup effort by town officials failed to remove all the debris down to the water canal and just cleared some branches. "I've only been here for about a month," she said, stressing she's not homeless. "This is a bunch of crap," she said, speaking rapidly.
She added the camp has been there for years with showers being offered to those living there on Tuesdays.
Patrick Lynn, the caretaker at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, right next to Old Town Center, said the camp has become a problem because too many homeless people come and go from the location now.
He said the church, however, has no problem with the homeless and knows how to deal with them without bothering the police. "I don't want to bother the police, they have enough responsibility already," Lynn said. "I handle the situations myself."
On Tuesdays at 10 a.m., the church feeds several destitute in its parish hall, he said.
He suspected about three people live in the camp, all gone during the day looking for work, running errands or spending time at the Los Gatos Library.
"They're 58 and 60 years old," Avey said about the men. "They're not vandals ... It's the kids that hang out here at night that cause the problems.
"They like living out. They're camping out," she said. "Where do you call your home? I call my home me."
Los Gatos Mayor Steve Rice on Monday said he didn't have any concrete information about the situation. "The referral just came in to the Town today, and it has been referred to the Police Department for investigation," he wrote in an email.
Avey said if the homeless are displaced, the town will have to find them an alternate place to live.
A security guard keeping watch behind Old Town Center referred inquiries about the situation to the complex management. "We don't want homeless people hanging around here," he said. "They've been there a long, long time."
—Los Gatos Patch will update this story as soon as more information becomes available.