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Buena Park church approved for new homeless shelter

BUENA PARK, Calif. (BP)–A 52-bed permanent homeless
shelter in a new multipurpose building at First Southern
Baptist Church, Buena Park, Calif., received unanimous
approval from the city’s planning commission Jan. 14.
The church’s homeless ministry has been the focus of
controversy — and national media attention — for more than
a year. Pastor Wiley Drake was sentenced to, then credited
for, 1,500 hours of community service last September after
he and the church were found guilty in July of four counts
of misdemeanor criminal actions that violated the city’s
zoning laws, in connection with the homeless ministry.
The church houses as many homeless people as arrive
there daily, often from 50 to 75, in an enclosed patio.
Drake said Jan. 15 he is “very happy” with the planning
commission’s action. The new 5,200-square-foot facility will
be built on faith without borrowing any money, he said.
Construction costs could range from $25 to $100 a square
foot, he said, depending on labor and materials donated to
the cause.
City review of construction plans for the church’s new
homeless facility will take place in February and, if
approval is given, construction is scheduled to take place
from June to December, The Orange County Register reported
Jan. 15. In the interim, the patio will continue to be used
in the homeless ministry under a conditional use permit,
Drake said.
Drake and city officials came to an agreement last
November on the proposed shelter, after the city had
rejected the church’s earlier construction plans, the
newspaper reported. Under the agreement, the church will
limit the number of homeless people who can sleep at the new
shelter to 52, and the church will prohibit homeless people
from sleeping in cars parked on church property, the paper
The vice president of a company adjacent to the church
property was the only one to testify in a planning
commission hearing Jan. 14, The Register reported. He stated
his company had been hurt by homeless people who “hang out”
around the business.
Drake remains on probation — with terms set by the
North Orange County Municipal Court including inspections
“without notice” for fire, building and health regulations –
– a provision Drake is appealing. In last July’s three-week
trial, the 12-member jury deliberated 16 hours before
returning a verdict.
“This has been one of those circumstances where we did
our best to comply with man’s law, but the bottom line was,
we had to obey God’s law,” Drake said after his September
sentencing. “God honored Psalms 41:1-2 that said, ‘…
blessed is he that considered the poor.’ I can testify that
God indeed delivered us in our time of trouble and he
preserved us.”
The Buena Park congregation is located within a few
miles of Disneyland, and Drake was instrumental in 1996 in
urging messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual
meeting in New Orleans to formally threaten a boycott if The
Disney Company continued in an “anti-family” direction. Last
year in Dallas, SBC messengers followed through by calling
for a boycott.