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An Explanation Is in Order

October 22, 1987

It's hard to imagine how 322 cities and urban counties in the nation could manage to apply for emergency federal funds to help house the homeless and Santa Ana, which has one of the largest concentrations of homeless residents in the county, didn't have enough time and couldn't find enough community interest to seek the money.

But that's what Santa Ana city officials would have the public believe, according to the city's explanation of why it failed to seek the $66,000 that was waiting for the city as its guaranteed share of the $50 million in grant money allocated by Congress. To no one's surprise, the public isn't buying the city's story.

Patricia C. Whitaker, Santa Ana's housing director, said that the city first learned about the program Aug. 14, and didn't receive the actual notice until Sept. 1. The application was due Sept. 28. She complained about things happening too rapidly. Smaller cities with smaller staffs than Santa Ana has, however, found the time to prepare the four or five pages of paperwork that were required.

Another excuse that Whitaker offered was that Santa Ana is not equipped to run its own homeless shelter, and couldn't find a nonprofit private agency willing to join in applying for the emergency money in the short time period. She said that she approached the YWCA, but it said that it was involved in its own shelter program--an explanation that the YWCA has strongly denied. According to the YWCA, no one from the city ever asked about applying for any money.

Other advocates for the homeless in Santa Ana and elsewhere throughout the county were also outspoken in their criticism of Santa Ana's failure to approach them; they said that they would have gladly applied for the money--if they had known about it.

Mayor Dan Young has asked the city's Housing Department for an explanation. One is indeed in order.

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