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What the lawsuit settlement means for Whittier

It’s good to share some thoughts with you this week. In the midst of the pandemic, our lives are changing in so many different ways but things are still happening at the City.

You might have heard that last week we entered into a settlement agreement in the Orange County Catholic Workers litigation. This is the lawsuit that was filed when homeless on the Santa Ana River were displaced by Orange County.

Ultimately, a settlement took place where permanent shelters were built and beds provided for many of the homeless. In return, various Orange County cities were allowed to enforce their no camping ordinance under the Boise case.

The City of Bellflower followed by voluntarily entering into an agreement in the same case so as to provide permanent beds in Bellflower but at the rate of six beds for every 10 homeless that had been counted in Bellflower.

The reason for Bellflower‘s involvement in the litigation, and now Whittier’s, is to provide beds mandated under Boise but then have a court order that allows us to enforce our no camping, curfew and other laws that had been deemed unenforceable under Boise. The Whittier settlement agreement allows us to enforce our quality of life and public safety ordinances in the parks and public spaces once we’re able to provide sufficient shelter beds exclusively for Whittier residents. And the agreement outlines specific criteria by which Whittier residency will be determined.

Because of the settlement, we are now looking at options for the provision of wraparound services at a new navigation center pursuant to a request for qualifications for a potential operator. We will be working on this over the next several weeks which will also include considering locations, costs, security plans, and the restrictions related to Whittier residency.

The Council unanimously chose this settlement agreement as a way to avoid costly and lengthy litigation and very importantly, it protects Whittier and sets the City on a forward path for enforcement of ordinances in our parks and public spaces.

We have been working on this for many months and my thanks to Mayor Pro Tem Henry Bouchot, our councilmembers, city staff and federal Judge David O. Carter and Special Master Hon. James Smith, for their perseverance and patience.

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