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November 30, 1987|Mary Ann Galante, Times Staff Writer

It won't exactly solve the homeless problem, but a few of the needy--or at least the temporarily inconvenienced--will get a nice place to stay in December.

The Doubletree Hotel in Orange is offering free rooms to the needy during December, according to a recent press release. For the entire month, 10 rooms are available for up to seven nights for people who are down and out in Orange County.

The program was announced with a good deal of hoopla last week when the Doubletree sent Santa and Mrs. Claus to hand out more than 50 dozen cookies to reporters and editors at 11 Orange County TV, radio and newspaper offices.

The Doubletree's marketing director, Michael Consuelo, conceded that the personal touch "doesn't hurt" to get the hotel's name out. Occupancy at the 46-room Doubletree has been running at a lackluster 68% this year for rooms that start at $70, he said.

But according to Consuelo, Doubletree is starting the program "to give something back to the community."

The hotel is providing shelter for those who are temporarily out on a limb and have no place to stay--rather than those who are permanently homeless. Three local hospitals--Childrens Hospital of Orange County, St. Joseph Hospital in Orange and UCI Medical Center in Orange--will refer people whom the hospitals consider to be in need.

Doubletree's program is similar to one run by the Anaheim Sheraton. In January, the Sheraton set aside one room for the entire year for people who need rooms while relatives are in the hospital.

Under the Sheraton's program, those who have qualify "often are (relatives of) people visiting from out of state who are in an auto accident or people who deliver babies prematurely," said Jeanne Newcomer, director of clinical social work at UCI.

"We define 'needy' pretty broadly," added Gregory Flint, social service director at Childrens Hospital. "It's someone for whom it would be a financial hardship to pay for lodging themselves."

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