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Whittier Council Member Proposes Closing Park After Woman Found Dead In Homeless Encampment

WHITTIER (CBSLA) — A Whittier City Council member has proposed closing a park after a 22-year-old woman was found dead there earlier this week.

"The unfortunate death of this young lady that occurred on New Year's Day, for me, is really the tipping point," Cathy Warner said. "We've been working on this issue for months now, and we can't seem to get it resolved."

Warner, who grew up in Whittier and has served on the city council since 2004, was at Parnell Park Friday morning where a growing homeless encampment near the playground continues to cause safety concerns. Those concerns peaked this week after 22-year-old Corinna Megan Ortega was found dead inside one of the tents.

Coroner's officials have not yet released the cause of Ortega's death, but police said they do not expect foul play in her death.

County Supervisor Janice Hahn said Ortega had been in contact with a local service provider while at the encampment. Hahn said her office is working to determine whether anything more could have been done.

Barbara Chavez, 68, knew Ortega and said she felt for her loved ones.

Chavez, who has lived in the park for months, said conditions have deteriorated in that time, claiming rampant drug use and theft.

"I just can't take this no more," Chavez said. "I can't."

But it was not just those inside the park who were feeling unsafe.

"It's concerning, because you don't know who's out there or what they might be doing," Diana Garrison, a mother, said as she called her young daughter back to her.

In an attempt to address those concerns, the city of Whittier has taken other measures such as passing a camping ordinance that requires the tents to be taken down during the day. The city also said it was working on getting more housing options for those living in the park.

Warner said she was able to get some exceptions to shelter rules that might help people struggling with drug addiction get into housing, but she said the park should be closed until safety for those in and around the area can be guaranteed.

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