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Minister of Information


At 23, Felipe Cruz works with at-risk teenagers, shows movies for kids and explains the city's plans to his neighbors

'I THINK HOUSING is the biggest problem here," Felipe Cruz says, looking out from his family's second-story wooden deck over the homes surrounding a playground in Beach Flats. "I work with about 25 families, and most of the time when someone comes to me with a problem it's about housing.

"The owners don't pay attention to their houses, but the tenants are scared to complain because they don't want to be forced to move."

As the busy 23-year-old discusses redevelopment, his youngest son, Christian, squirms in his arms. Cruz answers questions while playing with the toddler before heading off to Kid's Klub, where he runs movie night for neighborhood children. He has just returned from his other job at Barrios Unidos.

"I've gone to the meetings and think the plans are pretty good," he says. He has lived in the Flats for 10 years; for the past four years, he has lived in a two-story apartment with his mother, four brothers and his wife and their children. Cruz says he dreams of going to college, but he is so busy working he hasn't had the time to look into applying to schools.

He first heard about redevelopment five years ago and has been following it closely over the past five to six months.

"I think a lot of people agree with redevelopment," he says. "But people are concerned. They've heard their houses are going to be torn down, and they want to know where they'll go."

Cruz explains that his job at Kids Klub puts him in contact with a lot of Beach Flats families.

"I know the families here well, and for a lot of them, I'm the main connection to planning information. A lot of parents don't go to meetings because they get intimidated, especially if they don't speak English. But the families here trust me. And I try to pass on information as best I can."

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From the April 30-May 6, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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