Christmas Hill Park is not becoming a sanctioned homeless encampment, city officials responded March 19 after rumors began swirling on social media.
“City Hall has received concerns from residents that Christmas Hill Park could be utilized as a homeless encampment site,” the statement from the City of Gilroy reads. “There is no truth to that rumor. It is the City’s intention to partner with the County and our local nonprofits to assist those seeking shelter, however, at this time Christmas Hill Park is not being considered.”
On March 15, Caltrans posted a notice at a homeless camp located adjacent to the southbound Highway 101 onramp at 10th Street in Gilroy, saying residents would have to vacate the site by 9am on March 18 or risk arrest. However, in the early morning, Caltrans notified city officials that they would be postponing the sweep at a date to be determined.
Rumors that the homeless people dispersed from the camp would move to Christmas Hill Park started spreading on social media after an email from Cheryl Chambers, deputy district director of external affairs for Caltrans, was posted on Facebook. In the email, Chambers told City Administrator Jimmy Forbis and other city officials that the cleanup scheduled for March 18 was to be postponed.
“When I have new dates, I will provide,” Chambers wrote. “I am also inquiring if Gilroy is utilizing Christmas Hill Park for a sanctioned encampment. Please advise and if not, please share why this park can not be used to support people experiencing homelessness.”
In the statement, city officials said Caltrans provided residents of the camp with 24 hours’ notice due to receiving “multiple complaints” that there were open fires and hazardous activities on the property.
“The City of Gilroy respects Caltrans’ decision to address safety issues, however the lack of notice to both the City and residents of those encampments created unnecessary hardships that could have been prevented with adequate noticing,” the statement read. “Time was not afforded for the City, Santa Clara County and our nonprofit partners to identify alternative housing options for those being displaced.”
Homeless service providers and volunteers are working to help the residents move out of the camp. Some have found spaces in shelters, while others have moved to different areas of the city, said Jan Bernstein Chargin, a founding member of PitStop Outreach, an organization that provides services to the homeless. A handful remain at the camp, but understand they need to move soon, she said.