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Badham's Meddling Unwelcome

October 25, 1987

It would be most unfortunate if, in the process of trying to decide the best place in Irvine to locate the homeless, the city lost $496,000 in previously approved federal housing funds because of a congressman's meddling into the local issue.

The congressman in this case is Rep. Robert E. Badham (R-Newport Beach), who, in response to a number of letters and phone calls from Irvine residents in his 40th Congressional District, intervened and persuaded the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to reconsider its approval earlier this month of Irvine's request for the funds. The money, according to the grant request, is to be used to convert a never-occupied building constructed about three years ago as an animal shelter into housing for the homeless.

The decision whether to convert the unused building into a 50-bed central facility for the homeless, to move modular units such as trailers onto the city's 20-acre parcel in East Irvine or to choose any other option the community may come up with is strictly a local decision to be made by the City Council, not by the congressman.

Badham, however, interjected himself into the controversy because he heard from constituents opposed to the plan and because of his personal concerns about putting the homeless together "in a converted animal shelter" and under the flight path of military jets using the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

The property's location has a lot going for it. It is close to bus transportation, an important item for people who don't have cars. And the overhead flights would be no more disturbing to them in sound-attenuated buildings than they are to people who now occupy offices and hotel rooms in the area.

Badham's suggestion is that the city divide the money it would spend on the 50-bed shelter among the people who would otherwise live there so that they could use the cash to rent living space. That "solution" overlooks the fact that the rent money would run out while the 50-bed facility would be continuously available to temporarily house an endless number of homeless families.

Badham never contacted Irvine officials before interfering with the city's grant request. And considering that most homeless residents neither write their legislators nor make campaign contributions, we suspect that the unrepresented homeless remain that way in Washington.

Irvine, more than any other community in Orange County, has shown a commendable sense of responsibility in aggressively trying to do its share to help house the estimated 5,000 people, including about 1,700 children, in the county who face each night without a roof over their heads. The city's effort to provide as many beds as possible deserves more support in Irvine and in Washington.

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