Whittier reducing homelessness with novel approach

"The homeless population has gone way way down and we’ve taken care of a lot of people who were looking for help," says Whittier Mayor Joe Vinatieri. 

WHITTIER, Calif. - Two years ago, Whittier residents demanded a change in their community. They didn’t like the growing number of homeless people setting up tents in their parks and trails.

Vinatieri says, "It got to the point where it was out of control."

As the Mayor began to explore possible solutions, Vinatieri learned of Martin vs. Boise, a federal case that allows cities to regulate public spaces, but only after they’ve offered help and shelter to the homeless. 

"We say, 'Hey, we have a place for you. We’ll take care of you, feed you, whatever you need, but as part of that, once you do that, now you can enforce your laws under the Boise case," says Vinatieri. 

If people choose not to accept the help, they are told to leave the area. Police can remove their belongings from parks and other locations. 

Andy Bales, the President and CEO of the Union Rescue Mission located right in the middle of skid row has mixed feelings about this approach.

He says, "I know that drops homelessness in your town but does it really help the person who was escorted out of town?" 

Bales admits LA has failed miserably in handling the homelessness crisis and it should be doing something to fix the problem.

He says, "We’ve let it linger for so long without a solution that it’s an overwhelming disaster. Most of LA is looking like Skid Row. So now, LA is the biggest man-made disaster in the United States because we have not come to the aid of so many people."

Meanwhile, in Whittier, Mayor Vinatieri says people are being helped. They have a place to stay if they choose to and the residents now have clean parks and trails.

Vinatieri says, "Everybody came together saying, we trust you to make this happen, and all I can tell you is, it feels really, really good." 

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