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ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE : New Hope for Social Services

Two important new social services leaders are taking their posts at a crucial time. The good news is that both bring experience and energy to a daunting task.

Barbara Considine, recently appointed director of the county’s leading charity agency, Share Our Selves, and Maria Mendoza, the county’s new homeless issues coordinator, will be on the front line of the effort to cope with serious problems at the very time such programs are geared down because of county budget cuts.

By Aug. 27 the County Board of Supervisors will have put in place a budget with a $67.7-million shortfall, caused primarily by decreases in state funding. There is little mystery as to what the effect will be: More people will be deprived of vital assistance. That means more will show up at the door of charities such as SOS. Unfortunately, it may also mean that others will be forced over the economic edge into homelessness.

Both Considine, 33, and Mendoza, 60, have dealt with many of the problems of poverty firsthand. Considine for four years has been a staff member of the county’s Human Relations Commission, an agency that is threatened with extinction under the current budget. Mendoza, a senior staff analyst in the county’s management and budget division, has worked with community organizations on homeless issues. She now also will be the staff person for a new committee that will bring together county agencies to talk about homelessness.

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Considine assumed her new post Monday. Her predecessor, SOS founder Jean Forbath, put in countless hours of volunteer work to help build the 20-year-old agency into one of the county’s most effective. SOS now provides 300 families daily with emergency food, clothing and financial assistance. Considine is an excellent choice as the first paid executive director of SOS.

There’s no question that Considine and Mendoza (who will begin her new duties in September) have their work cut out for them.

Making a difference in tight times is a special challenge, a reason these changes at the top are so important for Orange County.


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