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Homeless Camp Remains in Los Gatos, Despite Mounting Complaints

Property next to Old Town Center is owned by Caltrans, police say.

Located right next to the Los Gatos Creek Trail foot bridge near the south wall of the center, the camp is home to about seven individuals who say they have no place to live, keep the place tidy and are not a public nuisance or threat.

Los Gatos-Monte Sereno police Sgt. spokesman Kerry Harris said this week town authorities have known about its existence for quite some time.

He said it was cleaned up in September by the Los Gatos Park and Public Works Department, and homeless individuals promptly re-inhabited the site and were appreciative of the clean-up service provided by the Town.

The property, right next to the center's south wall and a few feet long but quite narrow, drops down several feet to the water canal that runs parallel to Highway 17. 

When we visited the site Monday, Oct. 1, the camp was clean, but its down embankment was so full of trash that it will take a massive undertaking by town officials to clean it up.

Harris said the land is owned by Caltrans. He said other homeless camps along the Los Gatos Creek Trail are on Santa Clara Valley Water District, Santa Clara County Parks, or Town of Los Gatos property.

"This complicates the issue of abating the problem," Harris noted. "However, Town staff work well with these other agencies and routinely does so to manage the situation."

Harris explained the police department has an officer, who as a collateral duty, works directly on homelessness issues.

"The department recognizes that homelessness is a complex problem that impacts public health and safety; is often influenced by economic conditions, social pressures, as well as mental health and substance abuse problems; and requires a comprehensive coordination of services to resolve the problem," he said.

Collette Navarrette, a spokeswoman for Old Town Center, said Federal Realty owns the upscale shopping complex and takes great pride in providing a safe and clean center for the community to enjoy.

However, like Harris, she said the land on which the homeless camp is located is owned by Caltrans, prohibiting them from getting too involved.

Bernard Walick, a spokesman for Caltrans, wasn't immediately available for comment.

Several security personnel at the center, who declined to be identified this week, said the homeless aren't necessarily a problem, but local youth who camp on the other side of the bridge and participate in illegal activities such as vandalism and pot smoking.

"That camp has been there for several years," the security guard said. "The town did come in a few months ago, but all the workers did was cut down the branches ... the garbage is still there. Someone just needs to put up a new fence, clean up the mess and have the homeless enter from another side. That way they can be left alone."

Nearby St. Luke's Episcopal Church continues to reach out to camp occupants providing them meals and showers, according to its caretaker Patrick Lynn.

Nearby residents are upset as well as businessowners, said one woman who has worked in town for several years and wants to remain anonymous. "They're worried about the camp's unsanitary conditions and they see potential safety issues arising," she said.

Larry Arzie October 05, 2012 at 12:34 AM
It is practically impossible to get Cal Trans to clean up cites except on a very infrequent time basis. If no one complains to them except a phone call from the town on occasion then nothing much will be done. Cal Trans can not evict the homeless they clean up only. Three ways to get more done: Call the corporation yard of Cal Trans. and call the Highway patrol yourself. Do these every month or every week, which they then will put this location on the HOT SPOT list. Only the Highway Patrol is legally able to evict and then they have to post notice well in advance, before the place is cleared out. WHY? Because California is practically broke and there are rules to follow. LoL The County is just as bureaucratic of a nightmare to deal with. Finally keep calling the town but don't expect much help from them either. Last but not least get involved yourself with the homeless problem, as it is everyones obligation.
Irene Aida Garza-Ortiz October 05, 2012 at 01:48 AM
This is really BAD!
Julian Groft October 06, 2012 at 03:29 AM
Theres always going to be trash where ever you go, so dont worry about it....were all people and we all need somewhere to call home.
Jeanne Rajabzadeh October 06, 2012 at 10:45 PM
It can't really be that carefree living outside. What can be done to help these people find more comfortable housing?
Isis Moonheart October 29, 2012 at 04:02 AM
Evidently it must have been too comfortable, now they have nowhere but to die I suppose r r R
Isis Moonheart October 29, 2012 at 04:13 AM
Thirty years ago, there was an elderly gent who had lost a leg, and could no longer ply his trade as fisherman who lived in the bushes I tended too outside my office there near the post office, one morning I found he had peacefully passed in the night. Red sky at night sailors delight, red sky morning sailors warning. By old Bill

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