Whittier city leaders voted Monday night to approve a motion that would shut down a portion of Parnell Park, where residents say a homeless encampment has grown dangerous. This vote comes after hearing several hours of public comment from frustrated residents, including the family members of a young mom who died at the park.
The motion passed at around 10:45 p.m., and includes shutting down the homeless encampment over the next 10 days, cleaning it up and enforcing a curfew. Over those 10 days, the city said it would work with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homeless outreach services team to help the population find shelter and to offer other services.
The decision comes after 22-year-old Corina Ortega, who lived at the park, died on New Year’s Day. Her mother says someone there gave Ortega, who went by Megan, a lethal dose of drugs.
“You never have to think about making arrangements to bury your own child,” Betty Thorpe, Ortega’s mother, said. “My Megan was a beautiful soul.”
Fights, vagrancy, fires, a recent shooting and a fatal drug overdose had residents frustrated and angry on the evening of the vote.
One man said his anger was “through the ceiling,” while another said, “I don't want to expose my children to that. They don’t need to be seeing what’s going on in that park.”
Ortega’s own father begged city leaders to shut down the park, saying he thought the city “created a safe haven for drug addicts to hang out.”
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Still, Thorpe herself, along with others, disagreed that closing the park was the answer.
“You can’t just push them aside and throw them out. Where are they going to go?” she asked.