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IRVINE : City to Discuss Use of Base for Homeless

City officials are concerned that hundreds of housing units on the Tustin Marine Corps Air Station could house the homeless after the military vacates the base in 1997.

About 550 of the units, being used to house base personnel, are in Irvine, near Harvard and Warner avenues.

A coalition of 32 homeless services groups want to use some of the units as temporary housing for individuals and families in need.

Irvine and Tustin officials plan to meet soon with members of the Orange County Homeless Services Coalition to discuss the proposal, which also calls for job training and child development centers, including day care and youth programs and classes, near the housing units.

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The idea is to build a community where homeless people can live temporarily while they receive job training, said Tim Shaw, executive director of the Orange County Homeless Issues Task Force, one of the groups in the coalition.

Coalition officials proposed that the homeless housing be spread throughout the base’s 1,500 dwellings. Units not used by the coalition could be used for permanent low-cost or market-rate housing, Shaw said.

But city officials expressed reservations about concentrating large groups of homeless people at the base. The city’s policy has been to scatter low-cost and temporary housing units so that they blend with the surrounding community, they said.

“We don’t want one community to become the homeless community,” Councilwoman Paula Werner said last week. “We want to take away the stigma.”

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The Department of the Navy is not expected to consider the coalition’s request until this fall at the earliest.

Under the federal McKinney Act, the Department of Defense must give homeless assistance providers first priority for using vacated military facilities and land.

The proposal would also need the approval of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Health and Human Services, said Mark Tomich, a city planner.

The 552 base dwellings in the city consist of attached homes and townhouses. They were built over the last decade and seem to be in good shape, Tomich said.

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