Food Not Bombs (FNB), a local houseless kitchen and mutual aid group, had fought through an eviction notice filled start to 2022. FNB was initially evicted by the city from a Front St. location, then the county threatened the church they cook at with consequences if FNB continued cooking there. Through it all, FNB didn’t miss a day of giving out meals, and promptly relocated to the Clock Tower downtown. They were up and running in a location that worked for them, with hopes about staying long term.
Until on Thursday Feb. 17th when the county evicted FNB, again.
They were first evicted from Santa Cruz City Lot 27 on Friday, Jan 7. The organization relocated to the Clock Tower downtown, their third relocation in the past two years due to City evictions.
According to their website, FNB supports roughly 300 people in Santa Cruz each weekend. They provide a variety of vegan and vegetarian meal options, and a safe place for the houseless community.
“In addition to what we’re giving, we wanna put love and recognition into it as well. We want people to be recognized, we want them to know we see them,” volunteer Drew Joselson said.
A member of FNB’s informal security team, Steve Enriquez, said that safety is an additional benefit of FNB’s locations. According to Enriquez, locations like San Lorenzo Park, where authorities suggested they relocate to, are seen as undesirable by patrons due to safety concerns including flooding. The Clock Tower location is also the source of safety concerns, with the available space much smaller than Lot 27 and located next to a busy thoroughfare.
The city’s intentions of relocating residents and volunteers are now viewed with skepticism by some.
“I don’t think they want to give us a consistent spot. Which is really interesting, because I feel like the city could find us a spot,” said Beecher, a FNB volunteer, who did not provide a first name. “There seems to always be an excuse for why they have to move FNB.”
Despite their recent move, food donations and volunteers have remained consistent. FNB receives donations daily and weekly from local farms and the generosity of individuals and groups in Santa Cruz. Trader Joe’s donates to FNB on a biweekly basis and leaves large enough donations that volunteers struggle to find adequate storage space.
Additionally, FNB volunteers prepare food in the kitchen of Calvary Episcopal Church, where they were recently threatened with eviction then reinstated by the county. The notice that Calvary Church and FNB received on Jan. 27 explained the need for a Charitable Feeding Permit, which FNB refuses to apply for, ideologically.
The parking lot where FNB was stationed prior to their eviction was convenient and centralized for many of their patrons. Despite being told to relocate to the opposite side of downtown, FNB organizers and volunteers are remaining optimistic that their new location under the Clock Tower will remain visible and accessible to those who rely on them.
“I think the Town Clock would be my dream location, and we’d stay there permanently,” said FNB’s co-founder Keith McHenry. “If it gets into the thousands of people, we might need a larger physical space, but this is perfect, really.”
Now, FNB must find a new location to serve those in need, with the threat of getting evicted always a real possibility. FNB volunteers are left frustrated by the city’s repeated surprise evictions.
“When decisions [by the city] are made, come to us,” Enriquez said. “Don’t do it behind us. Work with us.”