Whittier residents describe filthy homeless encampment, raise alarm over coronavirus exposure

A growing Whittier homeless encampment is alarming residents who say their children see drug deals and fights in the area, and it could also be a source of coronavirus exposure.
WHITTIER, Calif. (KABC) -- Whittier residents are asking for help because of a homeless encampment that continues to grow.

Homeowners say there is no sanitation and no physical distancing of any kind in the encampment.

Parnell Park closed about two and a half months ago. Homeless people were forced out so crews could clean up the area, but residents say the problem just got shifted to a few miles away from there.

Video taken by frustrated residents show heaps of trash and even worse.

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"I walk into my backyard and it smells like urine. I have feces all along my back fence," described Whittier resident Tracy Martinez, referring to the homeless encampment near her home.

Martinez's house and her neighbors are separated only by a fence.

"It's scary, it's really, really scary," Martinez said.

She says she worries about her 11-year-old son and other children.

"They have to see all this: the drug deals, the fights, just everything. Kids shouldn't be subject to that," Martinez expressed.

An added fear is the spread of COVID-19.

"They have no health concern back there. They don't mask, they don't sanitize," Martinez said.

The encampment is located along the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. Residents say problems began when Parnell Park, once a major homeless encampment, closed last January.

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"I understand their situations. And I get it, it's horrible to be homeless, but you have to take into consideration the residents they're putting these encampments around," Martinez said.

Martinez says she and her neighbors called police, the city and the railroad, but little was done.

A statement from Union Pacific reads in part: "In furtherance of our shared interest in reducing illegal activity and improving public safety, the City and Union Pacific have established a cooperative process for removing trash, debris and illegal encampments from the UP."

However, Union Pacific says its efforts paused for the past two weeks with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We have heard from the residents in the area regarding the encampment and have received the support from the City to move forward with cleaning up the area next week," Union Pacific said in a statement.

"To me, it's empty promises, it's really empty promises," Martinez said.

Martinez says she's seen cleanup crews only once since the encampment formed despite ongoing complaints. Whittier police say they are working with the railroad to address the situation. So far, Eyewitness News has not received comment from the city.

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