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ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE

A Hand to Start Off Act II

March 29, 1998

The ranks of the homeless include all types of individuals, from the drug-addicted to the mentally ill, to those not long out of the middle class and hoping to climb back.

Last Sunday, more than 75 men from six Orange County shelters took part in a daylong event that sponsors hoped would get the homeless back onto the job rolls.

Billed as the first Day of Self-Esteem for Men, the offerings included a career fair, seminars and a resume-writing workshop. Each man also received a wardrobe suitable for on-the-job wear and, where needed, haircuts.

A nonprofit group called Working Wardrobes for a New Start sponsored the event at Irvine City Hall. It was a worthwhile effort, assisted by donations of money, services and speeches by seminar participants and corporations.

Working Wardrobes for several years has sponsored a similar day for women who have suffered emotional or physical abuse. An impressive array of people have donated their time and efforts to the event, including hairdressers who donate their services.

The group does not settle for gifts of rags being tossed out. It makes a commendable effort to obtain high-quality clothes, a fact noted by several homeless men last Sunday and by any number of abused women in past years.

Earlier last weekend, in Dana Point, an event benefited men who often have an even tougher task finding jobs than do the homeless: ex-convicts.

Re-Entry Home, affiliated with Lake Hills Community Church in Laguna Hills, hopes to help 15 men this year break the cycle of jail, the street, jail, the street.

Providing support for the ex-convicts, helping them reestablish links to families, can go a long way toward getting the men back on their feet and away from a life of crime.

The success of groups like Working Wardrobes and Re-Entry Home in raising funds reflects donors' recognition that one mistake or a run of bad luck should not keep someone on the skids forever.

There can be second acts in American lives. But getting through them successfully usually requires help. Fortunately, there are a good many people in Orange County who recognize that fact.

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