The 24 Hour Protest In Front of Whittier City Hall

The+24+Hour+Protest+In+Front+of+Whittier+City+Hall

It’s been more than three weeks since the activist group Heart of Whittier started their 24 hour protest in front of Whittier city hall.

The goal of the protest is to have the city open an emergency shelter as soon as possible to house the homeless until the Salvation Army Shelter the city council promised is complete. In late June, the council had voted 4-1 to approve a conditional permit to house the homeless on Pickering street. Said permit will allow the building to house 187 people, although an agreement on the budget isn’t expected to be made until fall 2020, according to the Whittier Daily News.

One of the members of Heart of Whittier, Andrew Jacobo, said that he and his group has received positive reception from the community. They’ve even been in contact with members of the city council.  

“ Joe even told me right now. He said there is something in the works as far as an emergency thing[shelter],” said Jacaobo.

While no specific plans have been officially announced for any temporary shelter, they were told that it will most likely be planned with the Salvation Army. The group has clashed with the council, a recent one pertaining to the public closure of public bathrooms at Whittiers’ Central and Palm Park. Because of the Covid-19 epidemic, the groups worried that the homeless won’t have accurate access to utilities. Although after some complaints, the park restrooms are now open.

One of the signs put up at the protest in front of city hall, July 5,2020.

There hasn’t been an official statement on the protest from the city or the council, Mayor Joe Vinatieri has given El Paisano his take on their protest.

“I appreciate protesters who have been wronged or where injustice has occurred but that’s not the case here. These individuals don’t realize that City Council has been working for months on an emergency homeless shelter,”  said Vinatieri. “In fact we are close to making a breakthrough announcement. I only hope that the activities in front of city hall don’t affect that outcome…”

Since the protest has been set up, the Whittier Police department have been dropping off homeless individuals there. Trinity Contreras, homeless individual, was dropped off at the protest site in early july.

“They took me and dropped me off at this site and said, Hey, you can set up all your luggage here and everything you want here,” said Contreras. “And you’ll be safe here, because you know there’s cameras and also police officers and everything like that, you’ll be fine.”

Although she was told that she’d be safe, Contreras feels that the homeless in the city have been treated “ completely terribly”. 

“They offer a shower for once a month for people and people need to be clean, especially if they love a job you know if they want to get off the streets,” said Contreras. “You know what I mean it’s not,  it’s human indecency. And it’s not right. I feel like just as us as humans and having those resources should be offered to everybody. ”

In recent years Whittier has tried to combat the homeless issue, particularly after the death of a homeless woman in early 2019, and the rise in homeless encampments during that year. 

The city hall protest was created by Lotti Hawthorne, a member of Heart of Whittier, her sister, Cassondra Hawthorne, of a methamphetamine overdose in unincorporated West Whittier, according to the Whittier Daily News.

Heart of Whittier will be hosting special protests on the 14th and 28th from one p.m. to eight, coinciding with the city council meetings.  

For more information on the Whittier city council, people can contact the council members through the cities website. Those interested in the city council meetings themselves may watch through the website or local channel three.

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