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We’re All the Poorer for SOS Shutdown : The Sooner Evicted Costa Mesa Charity Can Be Reopened, the Better for Its Clients

The full impact of Costa Mesa’s decision to evict Share Our Selves charity from its home in Rea Community Center is starting to be felt. SOS closed its food, clothing and financial assistance operations on June 1 after a long battle with the city. It will reopen later this summer at its new location in a business park on Superior Avenue, a site selected to move the charity away from neighborhood protests that led to the eviction. But in the meantime, thousands of people who would have turned to SOS will be left in the lurch.

SOS stopped paying its rent in January after it was ordered out. An agreement reached with the city forgave that rent, gave SOS until June 1 to close and allowed the agency’s dental operations to stay at the Rea Center. That might be viewed as magnanimous under some circumstances. But it is hard to pass over the obvious cruelty of forcing SOS to close down before its new center is ready. That leaves the 5,000 clients a month that SOS serves stranded.

What’s more, other Orange County social service agencies are facing their own financial and other crises, leaving little hope that they can pick up the slack until SOS reopens.

There are some things that could be done, however, to help out this summer. For one thing, churches and community groups could pitch in with emergency aid and volunteers to get food distributed--the most pressing need. This would take an organized effort by agencies that already feel inundated.

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But one agency, the Episcopal Service Alliance, says it has the volunteers and the space to fill the food gap if it has the money. In the face of its own financial problems, ESA is cutting back services by 50% this year.

United Way also plans to bring together agencies and others concerned about SOS at a meeting next week.

There also are some things that can be done to speed up renovation of SOS’ new center. A general contractor, for example, would cost $50,000 to $60,000, but could assure SOS of opening sooner.

Also, while there are plenty of “hammer-and-nail” volunteers ready to help, skilled tradesmen are desperately needed.

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SOS executive director Jean Forbath said volunteers let the phone ring last week as the charity packed up its operations at the Rea Center. At the other end, they knew, were heartbreaking stories of those who depend on the charity to get them through difficult times. It’s going to be a long, hard summer for thousands.


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