The camp is a protest against a city law which makes it an infraction to sleep outside from 11 p.m. to 8:30 a.m.
It began on the county courthouse steps July 4 and drew as many as 60 participants until a visit by deputies Saturday.
Part of the reason it grew unabated is because it is on county property within city limits, so city police officers didn't enforce the city's ordinance and county deputies showed little interest. But the county announced last week the camp did violate the city ordinance and said campers were subject to citation.
Deputies paid a few warning visits and then began writing tickets under a state law which makes it a misdemeanor to "lodge" in a structure, vehicle or place without permission of the owner.
Just after midnight Saturday, deputies descended on a group of 40 or so people sleeping there and cited 17 people and arrested five who allegedly refused to sign the citations or to dislodge, deputies said.
A flier deputies handed out stated "this action is not intended to interfere with your non-lodging demonstration during business hours."
Early Sunday, deputies paid another visit, writing five tickets and arresting two campers.
One of those arrested was Ed Frey, an attorney helping the protesters.
By noon, Frey was out of jail. Outside the courthouse, about a dozen people and
Group spokesman Chris Doyon said "it was ugly" when Frey was arrested during the "assault" by deputies.
He vowed to continue until the group's goals are met - to change the "camping ban" and to have the tickets rescinded.
He said he would love a "cease-fire," but will stay until his basic right to sleep outside if he doesn't have a place to do so indoors is recognized.
"This is a fight about aesthetics," he said. "One man's garbage is another man's belongings. I think millionaires are unaesthetic; I think Hummers are disgusting. You see the ridiculousness. This is class warfare.
"There is room for negotiation; why don't our government representatives come out here and talk to us?"
Doyon, who was arrested early Saturday on a warrant for petty theft, said he intended to request a jury trial to fight the charge, which will be costly and time-consuming.
Doyon, 45, said he grew up in Maine and came to Santa Cruz about 23 years ago while following The Grateful Dead.
He said he fell in love with the area and has come back on and off over the years.
Doyon said he wants to live outdoors and doesn't want anything from the government except to be left in peace. He said he has a "survival camp" in the mountains.
"Does that mean I'm less than?" he said.
He said people are typically homeless due to economic problems, mental illness, drug addiction or because they are "travelers" like him who chose to be "permanently un-homed" and don't need help.
Either way, he said, there are not enough shelter beds and it shouldn't be a crime to sleep outside.
Sunday's campers ranged in age from their early 20s to their early 70s.
One couple, Crow and Red, said they were not cited Saturday night because they simply sat up in some chairs.
The couple said they became homeless in May after their motorhome was impounded.
Crow, 46, a New Jersey native, worked in construction until those jobs became scarce and said he wants to work but can't find any. A childhood leg injury gives him trouble too, he said, and he doesn't know how to type or use a computer.
Red, 51, who grew up in Ohio, said she was crushed by a forklift while working locally as a heavy equipment operator and that those injuries caused a degenerative bone disease to come out of remission. She can hardly stand some days, and hopes to qualify for disability so she can get off the streets, she said.
"It's scary and degrading," she said. "I want a home."
Another camper, Colette Connolly, 72, said she has been homeless for about 20 years, 15 of them in Santa Cruz.
She was once married and had four young children, but her life story goes downhill from there and includes a divorce, suicide attempt, mental illness and the inability to finish college at the University of Washington.
She studied literature there, she said, and once worked for the post office.
Nearby, T.S. Orbit sat wrapped up in a blanket, nursing wounds he said he acquired at a single room occupancy building in San Francisco, courtesy of some bed bugs and parasitic worms.
Orbit, 39, who grew up in Pennsylvania, has only been in town about 45 days.
He wants a home and wants to go to law school, saying his interest in law was sparked when his dad killed his mom.
A few thick law books sat beside his blanket. He brightens when relating how he used to have a business selling Grateful Dead stickers and T-shirts; he was struck by lyrics about "what love will do for you."
Orbit believes the "camping ban" constitutes targeted enforcement against a certain group of people, those who are homeless, and is unconstitutional.
"This is a good fight, and I'm glad God has given me this battle with some company," he said. "I have faith we have a pretty good chance once people hear about it. But we can't fight the criminal justice system unless we have the public's interest.
"Please come down, if you have any activist urge in your heart, just bring a sign, write a letter to the mayor, something."
Homeless activist Becky Johnson said they never intended to do battle with the county and that she was ready to move on.
But, she said, a "dogged core" of the group feel strongly about it and doesn't seem intimidated by the threat of jail.
"Personally, I'm ready for a new tactic," Johnson said. "We've accomplished quite a few goals already. People have had a clean place to sleep and rest and restore. They feel more hopeful that not everyone hates the homeless."