Story on Shelter Needs Clarification

* I was dismayed at the manner in which my comments were characterized in your recent front-page article ("Shelters for Disadvantaged Arouse Fierce Opposition," July 25). The article implied that I said that there was little cause for celebration regarding the opening of Orange County's first homeless shelter for the mentally ill, Beacon House. I said or implied nothing of the sort. Furthermore, I never said, as stated in the article, that restrictions placed on the project by the county led to only the provision of 12 beds. Allow me to clarify.

As I told the reporter, the problem lies in the fact that nowhere in Orange County does there exist a zoning designation for transitional or emergency housing. Thus, service providers must go through the conditional use permit process, which provides the opportunity for public comment and mandates governing officials to strongly consider the community's objections (no matter how uninformed) to such projects. This leads to delays in construction or rehabilitation of properties as well as, at times, restrictions on the number of beds and types of services that can be provided at the site. The Times' characterization of my comments represents a simplistic interpretation of the problem.

On any given night in Orange County, 12,000-15,000 men, women and children are homeless. The resolve and determination on the part of service providers like Episcopal Service Alliance to subject themselves to this long, frustrating process is a testament to their commitment to ending this unnecessary tragedy, and their subsequent success, is cause for great celebration. The point I made, which was sadly overlooked, was that service providers shouldn't have to be subjected to a seven-year process to increase the stock of shelter beds in the county by 12 or 100 beds.

Any information that I provided regarding the specific experiences of service providers was intended only to point in the direction of those providers for the purpose of interviewing them. I had no intention of speaking for them and I should not have been quoted in their stead.


Executive Director, Orange County

Homeless Issues Task Force

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