Finding a place for the displaced

Sometimes, what children need most is love. Other times, it’s discipline. But every once in a while, a child in need can use someone who knows how to cut through red tape.

Newport Heights resident Don Krotee was able to come to the rescue of 13 children whose San Diego County group home was destroyed in the recent wildfires. The adolescents of Phoenix Academy’s Descanso facility, which is a one-year treatment program for drug and alcohol problems, got shuffled around to several facilities after the wildfires destroyed the place they called home. Phoenix Academy’s Santa Ana facility offered the children shelter, but state and local rules only allowed them to take in a few more children—not all 13.

Normally, it would take about a month to untangle the web of bureaucracy required to get the approvals—a month in which the children had no place to stay. Krotee, who found out about the situation through his Santa Ana planning and architectural firm, had a strong suspicion he might be able to help.

He toured the Santa Ana Phoenix House with the fire inspector, using his architect’s eye to scrutinize the layout and design of the place to make better use of the space. “We went through and we found an underutilized conference room, and it had a large enough area to house some of the kids,” Krotee said, explaining that the restrictions centered mainly around fire codes that designate how many people can occupy a space. “Then we saw some reorganization in the mens’ and womens’ dormitories could allow the others,” he said.

The quick response of Krotee and the fire marshals allowed the children to get shelter in about a day instead of a month. “We were able to adjust our program so that these kids could receive treatment on a continuous basis,” said Winnie Wechsler, executive director of Phoenix House, who credited all the state and local agencies for their help in making that happen. “There was no interruption of these kid’s treatment.”

(June Casagrande, “Finding a place for the displaced,” Daily Pilot, November 2003)

Diana NguyenDaily Pilot