How Whittier Is Dealing with Its Homeless Encampment

Residents of Whittier are angry over the large homeless encampment taking over the Whittier Boulevard greenbelt area.

The community voiced their concerns at several City Council meetings last week, asking what will be done to help cleanup the area.

City Council officials announced they have begun the steps necessary to deal with the encampment, assembling a task force to visit the area to offer daily services.

Additional plans are underway to force the people camping to move temporarily during the day so the area can be mowed as required by the city’s contract with Caltrans, which owns the property, Martin Browne, community services manager said in an interview Saturday.

Whittier Daily News reports the city is limited by a federal appellate court ruling that has ruled "activities such as sleeping are basic human needs and citing someone who does not have a home from sleeping on public property constitutes cruel and unusual punishment."

“But it doesn’t preclude moving them during the day as long as they have rights to sleep for 12 hours,” Browne said about the appellate. “If we want to mow and maintain, we have every legal right to do that, even if that means they have take their tents down down and move their stuff.”

The workers currently hired to mow the area have to maneuver around the 30 or so tents on the site just to get their job done.

The estimated start of the plan to move the tents during the day has not been announced.

The only homeless shelter in Whittier is First Day but it only has 45 beds and a three- to four- month long wait list. The next closest shelter is in Bell with 300 beds but it is already too full.

Whittier Councilman Josue Alvarado says the only answer is going to be a new regional shelter.

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