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Modesto looking for solutions as homeless camp at Beard Brook Park grows

Donna Whitmill has been homeless for 26 years, but for the first time she can remember, she says the City of Modesto is supporting her to stay, not forcing her to leave.

Donna Whitmill, 59, and her little dog Coco are homeless and living at Modesto's Beard Brook Park.

"It's hit and miss for everything. You never know what's going to go and happen," Whitmill told ABC10.

Whitmill has been without a home for 26 years, but for the first time she can remember, the city is supporting her to stay, not forcing her to leave.

"I think it's pretty cool. They're not giving you no tickets. They're trying to help you instead of giving you tickets," Whitmill said.

Whitmill has one of 40 tents in a camp that is growing. The city is providing port-a-potty, hand washing stations, fixing water fountains and has dropped off a dumpster. The community has donated tents and food.

"We have not seen any major health or safety concerns there," said Thomas Reeves, Modesto spokesperson, who added the city's leadership team meets twice a day to discuss the ongoing homeless crisis. "We have patrols everyday. And, we are monitoring very closely to make sure that people are staying safe."

Mike Pittman says he's a former chef who also worked construction. At 11 years homeless, he welcomes the change for the good at the park.

"I think it's great. I don't know if it will help. But, I think it's great," Pittman said.

One place that is off limits is the Tuolumne River, right next door to the tents. It's protected by a temporary, plastic, orange fence. The Tuolumne River Trust makes sure the river is safe for recreation and for wildlife. They want to make sure the park is good to go for its upcoming Modesto RecFest on Saturday, Oct. 20. In the meantime, Stanislaus County is providing outreach for the homeless.

"Try to connect these individuals with resources, services, support and housing or other shelter options," Ruben Imperial, Stanislaus County, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, said.

The city says this is a very temporary solution in hopes of a location for a more permanent shelter. Or, even a home one day for Whitmill.

"Oh yeah. I dream about that everyday," Whitmill said.

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