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Dealing Fairly With the Problems of the Homeless

July 31, 1988

The Orange County Human Relations Commission was created by the Board of Supervisors in 1971 to serve as an impartial agency to deal with intergroup tensions, to foster mutual understanding and respect among all citizens of the county and to eliminate prejudice, intolerance and discrimination against any individual or group. The commission recognizes the hardship of very-low-income people who find themselves with no shelter at night, and continually researches and studies policies and programs that alleviate undue suffering on the part of that population.

On July 14, 1988, the commission discussed Santa Ana's policy calling for the confiscation of unattended property belonging to homeless people in Santa Ana. The commission unanimously voted to communicate to the City Council of Santa Ana our serious concern with the current policy and to request that the council re-evaluate the city's practice.

The commission wants to underscore the hardship suffered by homeless persons who lose personal belongings. We have encountered several people who have lost needed medicine or identification that they had hidden in their bedrolls.

Identification cards are required for County General Relief payments and for shelter in many private programs, including the Salvation Army. Loss of such identification, medicine or other small, seemingly meaningless personal effects adds injury to people already suffering the physical and psychological pain of homelessness.

A method of retrievability of personal items would eliminate undue hardships on homeless people living in Santa Ana while still allowing the city to aggressively clean and maintain the parks. A week's time to reclaim "lost" belongings would allow homeless people the option of securing any property critical to their survival.

DANIEL H. NINBURG, M.D.

Chairman of Orange County

Human Relations Commission

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