Becky and Amber

Becky and Amber

The Encampment

The encampment at Parnell Park is different up close than you might expect. It feels less like a refugee camp and more like a weekend camping trip that went on too long. People there are constantly tidying, sweeping trash and dirt into dustpans.

This is where we met Amber and Becky. Amber, a victim of domestic abuse, asked for us not to photograph her.  

Amber, a victim of domestic abuse asked us not to photograph her (face)

Amber, a victim of domestic abuse asked us not to photograph her (face)

Unwelcome Fame

Amber was horrified to learn they had been photographed by the Whittier Daily News from a distance for an article describing the encampment as a hotbed of illicit activity.

It was “very hurtful for us,” she says. “It affects our progress. We’re upset and angry. We’re so focused on the negative now.”

Becky, pictured below, is somewhat of a den mother for the encampment. She describes an incident when a nearby resident came up to them and photographed them as if they were in a zoo. He then posted about it on NextDoor.

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Quality of Life

The encampment residents have the fortune, or misfortune, of being within the jurisdiction of two police agencies. They are cited frequently for candles, pets, smoking, and other quality of life violations. Becky has a stack of yellow infraction slips in her hands. Although this adds another obstacle to getting housed, Becky believes the police are just as frustrated with the situation. “When they get calls about us, they get pissed and they take it out on us.” Becky doesn’t blame the police, though. “We know they’re just doing their jobs.”

Amber with her citations

Amber with her citations

Why Form an Encampment

For Becky, an encampment at Parnell Park is actually better than what she has been accustomed to in that their is more stability. She’s tired of “street bouncing,” which she describes as constantly getting pushed from one location to the other, “getting run off my spot.” Interestingly, being in one place has actually allowed social service agencies to help her and others more easily. For instance, Becky is working on getting her identification. She has a mammogram scheduled as well.

Perception Persists

There are several children that morning playing in the background. Some people claim that not a single person goes to the park anymore because the homeless there are dangerous.

According to Amber, there had been no incidents between the encampment members and the families at the park. “We try to stay as far away from the kids at the park as possible. I had to slap one guy upside the head because he cussed in front of the kids.”

Becky chimes in: “We don’t want to be blamed for what we can’t control. We aren’t all just a bunch of drug addicts kicking it at the park camping.”

Reprinted with permission from In My Back Yard.

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