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Tents no longer allowed at Whittier parks during the daytime

WHITTIER – The City Council on Tuesday unanimously voted to prohibit daytime camping at Whittier parks, the latest step in the city’s efforts to reclaim parks overtaken by homeless and vagrants.

The new law prohibits camping between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. and specifies that with 24 hours’ notice, the city can remove abandoned personal property from parks and other public areas.

Property will be stored for a minimum of 90 days, after which it can be destroyed.

The new rules go into effect immediately after Councilmember Cathy Warner suggested the ordinance be treated as an urgency item, citing health and safety concerns at Parnell Park.

“After church on Sunday, I personally witnessed several individuals in different states of drug use,” she said.

Council members echoed Warner’s statements.

“I personally have seen activity at multiple sites where individuals that are not homeless are using abandoned tent areas to do their own personal drug use,” said Councilmember Josué Alvarado. “I’ve also seen people lying down at the parks heavily dosed on drugs and, unfortunately, you have too many instances where children are watching, parents are there – and we’re not trying to criminalize homelessness, we’re trying to criminalize drug use.”

Alvarado also emphasized the distinction between homeless residents and people using the parks to consume illicit drugs.

“I’m tired of having the homeless used as a shield for these types of activities,” he said.

Council members weren’t keen on the city having to store personal property abandoned by the homeless but recent court decisions have restricted cities’ ability to discard such items. The council voted to investigate partnerships with outside groups that could potentially help with storage.

Along with concern about people sleeping in parks, Whittier Police are responding to daily reports of drug use, public urination, and defecation.

“I’d like to clarify for the record that there’s no intent to harass homeless people, whether by turning on sprinklers or any other method that would unfairly prejudice people who are unhoused,” said Councilmember Henry Bouchot.

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