Whittier Residents Angered Over Violence, Fire and Indecency at Homeless Encampment

The city council is considering a curfew that would basically ban camping in the park where homeless gather in tents

Residents lined up at a Whittier City Council meeting Tuesday night to demand action after a fire and an assault at a homeless encampment in Parnell Park, the town’s newest "tent city."

The city council has approved a second reading of an amended camping ordinance and storage ordinance. Those ordinances ban tents from being erected between certain hours and will take effect Wednesday.

The city said the ordinance applies throughout the community with the caveat that it's not enforceable unless there are shelter beds available for homeless individuals.

Dozens of homeless individuals live in Whittier's Parnell Park, and neighbors said the city and law enforcement were powerless to stop it, until now.

In one encounter, a resident caught a man on camera as he urinated in bushes. 

"Why are you urinating in the park?" the man behind the camera can be heard asking the man outside Leffingwell Elementary School.

That same man was accused of punching the principal of the school in the face when he confronted him about his actions, highlighting the urgency of the issue to neighbors.

"The guy was dropping F-bombs, saying, 'You can’t tell me what to f------ do,' and threatened to harm him. Next thing you know, he stepped forward and punched him right in the face,” Rona Overbeck, teacher and resident of Whittier, said.

Parnell Park is located about a mile away from the elementary school.

NBC4 reached out to the school for comment. Whittier police confirmed they received a report of an assault at the school on Nov. 7.

A man who identified himself as Joseph told NBC4 he's been living in the park for more than one month. He said his downward spiral began after a divorce. He got behind on child-support payments and ended up on the streets.

The park also is home to a couple, Brian and Cheryl, who have lived there for about six months. Brian said he's caring for Cheryl, who has dimentia.

Another video taken by a resident shows a fire in an encampment right outside a YMCA.

"Unbelievable. Look at this,” the man said as he recorded the flames.

The city has previously said it faces “considerable challenges with assisting our local homeless population,” and the mayor considered declaring a city emergency last month.

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