Applause and Criticism for Laguna Fire-Relief Organizations

* Your article, "Some Smolder Over Fire Sale" (Nov. 19), significantly mischaracterizes the generosity and helpfulness of the community of Laguna Beach to our neighbors, some of whom are chronically homeless. Your article suggests that the firestorm survivors are a universal class of "homeless rich." This is simply not true. Many of the firestorm survivors are elderly on fixed incomes, uninsured renters, schoolteachers, single parents and others who can by no means be considered economically rich. However, most are rich in spirit, and all are loved by their friends and neighbors.

The Laguna Fire Relief Organization is dedicated to providing assistance to survivors of the firestorm in Laguna Beach.

However, the social needs of our other citizens, including the homeless, have not been neglected. Our challenge in this crisis has been to serve not only the needs of the fire survivors but to continue to provide all of the support that the community has consistently provided in the past. The city, community organizations and the churches of Laguna Beach have always strived to meet the needs of the economically disadvantaged, the oppressed and the homeless.

When the firestorm occurred in Laguna Beach, the Laguna Fire Relief Organization immediately contacted representatives of the Episcopal Service Alliance and the Friendship Shelter to discuss how the fire and the relief effort would impact homeless and economically disadvantaged people. In those meetings, we allocated responsibility for helping clients with differing circumstances and needs among the relief agencies that were best suited.

We hope that those who have good-quality clothing, shoes and household items will continue to donate items as well as funds to Episcopal Service Alliance so that it can continue its vital mission.

DOUGLAS F. LANDRUM

Laguna Fire Relief Organization

* I was appalled when I read that the "Laguna Greeter" was denied serviceable shoes. I was equally distressed to read that "burned-out" victims might be reluctant to be seen collecting clothes alongside the homeless.

As published in The Times, the money received from sale of leftover goods will go to "victims" who have insurance through which they will recoup much of their loss. Some will appreciate the cash to apply to room rental at luxury hotels. Shame on the members of the Laguna Presbyterian Church. How much better use would have been to direct such money to a worthy organization which helps those who are unable to help themselves.

M. MEYER

Newport Beach

* I was offended by your article. The implication that the Laguna Presbyterian Church is concerned only about those made homeless through the fire is unjust.

The fact that the Laguna Presbyterian Church took the lead and became the main coordinator of volunteer assistance for fire victims should not be allowed to obscure the fact that this church has also taken a lead in serving the needs of homeless people.

Since Friendship Shelter began five years ago, the Laguna Presbyterian Church has been a major supporter with volunteers from the church community coming to the shelter not just to lend a hand but to give all kinds of enthusiastic support to our residents. During this time the Presbyterian church has also given over $30,000 to support our program of rehabilitation for homeless people.

The Presbyterian church has also supported other programs for the homeless and the poor, and with other local churches has hosted the cold-night shelter for homeless people during the winter months for the last three years.

The two homeless people who complained about their treatment do a great disservice to the Presbyterian church, which has been helping them for many years. They do a disservice to those generous local people who have been supporting programs like ours but have now lost their homes through the horror of the fire. They are not typical of the homeless population here, one of whom observed "It was easier for us, we had less to lose."

COLIN HENDERSON

Executive director

The Friendship Shelter Inc.

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