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Bed Crisis for the Homeless Continues

December 30, 1987|RAY PEREZ | Times Staff Writer

When 153 people bunked down at the National Guard Armory in Santa Ana the other night, the number of available beds in the county to accommodate the homeless rose about 30%.

Two years ago, the Coalition for the Homeless found that about 3,000 people were using shelters or cheap motels. Another 2,000 were believed to be sleeping in the streets.

Now there are 6,000 to 7,000 homeless people in Orange County. Two years ago, there were just 500 available beds for them. That number has not increased, except for the temporary opening of the armory during the recent cold weather.

Scott Mather, a Costa Mesa insurance executive who devotes most of his free time to helping the homeless, said there will be another 100 beds available early in 1988, when two new shelters open. Seven permanent shelters take in the homeless, including the Salvation Army and the Orange County Rescue Mission in Santa Ana.

Mather is also a member of the Orange County Homeless Issues Task Force, which was put together by Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) early this year and includes directors of most social service agencies in the county and other homeless advocates.

Early next year, the task force will complete a survey of the homeless situation in the county and seek more permanent solutions.

"The task force has a future, and we are going to do some good things," Mather said Tuesday. "The need is out there, no question about it."

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