It is painful to be attacked by authors whose cause one champions so strongly. Authors Dear and Wolch can only be lauded when they outline the tragic consequences of emptying the nations' mental hospitals onto the streets without first setting up a community-based support system to protect and care for them.
But Irvine has a different problem and one no less urgent. In fact, neglect of its problem can only compound the difficulty for the mentally ill homeless in other areas. The vast majority of the Irvine homeless are not mentally ill; they are mostly mothers with children or families with children who have suddenly come upon hard times. But when people are thrown onto the streets they are driven out of Irvine and compete with the homeless of other less affluent areas, thus compounding the problem.
This has quietly been going on for some years. The five apartments that Irvine has set up to stem the tide of more than 639 cases documented by just one Orange County shelter in 1986 are totally inadequate, so emergency measures are now being taken to house this special group. Since the permitted 30- to 60-day period in the Irvine shelter will be so brief, merely long enough to give the family a financial breather, plans are under way to develop longer term, dispersed individual quarters for those who cannot recover so quickly. Above all we are pressing for low-cost housing as a permanent solution that must be developed in every community, if this "urgent national emergency," as Congress designated it, is to be solved.