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LONG BEACH : Navy Rejects Shelter Project for Homeless

October 06, 1994|EMILY ADAMS

A proposal to turn part of an abandoned Navy housing development into shelter for the homeless has been rejected by the federal government, in part because project backers insisted on mandatory religious instruction.

Christian Outreach Appeal's proposal to turn 26 acres of the Cabrillo and Savannah projects into homeless housing had been approved by the federal Department of Health and Human Services last year. But the Los Angeles Mission, which had agreed to financially back the housing project, pulled out in July, saying it wouldn't participate unless it could make religious instruction mandatory for its homeless clients. The federal government prohibits mandatory religious participation in its projects.

After the Los Angeles Mission withdrew, Christian Outreach Appeal scrambled for a new backer, but couldn't get a firm commitment within the federal government's deadline. Last week, the 26 acres set aside for homeless transitional housing reverted to the Navy, and it is unclear if Christian Outreach Appeal will be allowed to reapply.

The 135 acres of former Navy housing on the city's west side had been split among several different agencies, besides the homeless group, with 62 acres set aside for middle schools and high schools, 30 acres for Cal State Long Beach research facilities and 17 acres for a federal job training center.

"We don't know what this means, as far as how the property will be divided now," said city spokeswoman Joan Caterino. "There's a whole lot of unknowns."

The city, which arranged much of the property split after acting as mediator between the groups, is waiting for guidance from the Navy, said Jerry Miller, manager of the city's economic development bureau.

Although the local homeless services group is disappointed at the rejection of its application, leaders still hope the old Navy property will include shelter for the homeless, said the Rev. Cedric Hinson of Christian Outreach Appeal.

"This isn't an ego thing," Hinson said. "I don't personally have to be involved, nor does COA. We still want the idea to go forward."

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