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.