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BUENA PARK | Community News Focus

Planners to Consider Homeless Shelter Plans

January 22, 1997|LESLEY WRIGHT

Neighbors who hate it, homeless who need it and officials furious about it will all come together tonight when the Planning Commission decides whether the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park can build a shelter on its grounds.

The decision could be the beginning of the end of a long-running feud between Pastor Wiley S. Drake and the city over illegal camping on the church grounds.

The controversy began last summer, when city code enforcement officials cited the church for a number of violations, including an illegal camp for the destitute.

Drake refused to back down, saying the camp served his religious mission to aid the poor.

By September, Drake and officials reached an accord over the increasingly bitter dispute and the church agreed to build a shelter on the grounds instead of having people sleep outside.

The shelter plans will be considered by the Planning Commission at 7 p.m. in the City Council chambers of City Hall, 6650 Beach Blvd.

City officials will recommend that the commission grant a conditional use permit for the shelter, but with a host of conditions, said Rick Warsinski, acting director of development services.

Those provisions are based on operating guidelines recognized by other homeless shelters across the county.

"We have visited those shelters and we feel that if the church operates under that [guideline], it will not be a problem to the surrounding neighborhood," Warsinski said.

But neighbors who have protested the proposed shelter have said they will pack the meeting to try to stop the permit approval.

Homeowners living nearby have said that since the homeless camp was widely publicized in the media, their neighborhood has become a magnet for homeless people, and they are worried about safety and property values.

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