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Panel Proposes Move for Corona Homeless Shelter : Charity: City committee wants center for indigent relocated next to an industrial park, and out of the struggling downtown.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A city committee has proposed that a church-operated shelter opposed by area business leaders be moved in the next six months from downtown to a house next to an industrial park.

The 17-member committee, formed in August, has been looking at a house on Blaine Street, east of Main Street and north of the Riverside Freeway, as a new shelter site.

Under the plan, if the Corona Christian Fellowship shelter is not moved from its present location on 6th Street within the next half-year, the City Council will review the situation again.

The proposal received support from Pastor Timothy Waisanen, who founded the church in 1988 and the shelter in 1990, on condition that a new site will be ready before the current storefront shuts down.

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The new site “seems all right to me,” he said. “I’m confident that at least some good things will happen out of this.”

The debate over the shelter arose last month, when the Downtown Business Assn. urged the City Council to find a new site, complaining that the shelter was attracting more homeless people to the struggling downtown.

But the church community rallied behind Waisanen, saying he is doing his religious duty to help a rising population of homeless and poor people. The City Council formed the ad-hoc committee, which is made up business, religious and government leaders, to resolve the problem and come up with a long-term strategy for dealing with homeless people.

Even so, the council delayed a vote on the relocation proposal earlier this week until it could be determined whether the Corona Christian Fellowship would be guaranteed operation of the shelter once it was moved.

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Since then, a group of local charities, business owners and religious leaders recommended that Waisanen’s church be placed in charge of the new site. The ad-hoc committee will consider the recommendation Monday.

The shelter debate has fueled discussion about Corona’s rising homeless population. Business owners on the east end of 6th Street have complained for several years that panhandling and vagrancy have scared away customers, pinching their sales beyond the downturn from the sluggish economy.

In the next few days, city officials are expected to determine whether federal money for low- and moderate-income housing can be used to buy the new site. If such money is used, that could mean that Waisanen’s ministerial activities could be restricted.

“We really don’t know if we can spend money on it,” said Ken Fischer, assistant to the city manager. “We have to find that out first. We have the whole separation of church and state. Those issues have to be hashed out.”

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Waisanen said homeless people at his shelter are offered Bible study classes, but such classes are not required to stay at the facility.

“That’s what we’re doing right now,” Waisanen said. “We don’t deny a person the opportunity to stay here based on race, religion, creed or origin.”

After the relocation is resolved, the ad-hoc committee is expected to come up with guidelines for shelters and ways to coordinate programs for the homeless.

The panel may also establish special daytime programs and bus and van transportation services for homeless people.

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