Local community organizer Heroux dies

Roger E. Heroux, a longtime community organizer and retired county public health director who worked to end homelessness, died Monday at his home.

The 68-year-old had battled prostate cancer for the past few years, but recently it had metastasized to his lungs and spine, said his former co-worker Michele Mickiewicz, the interim director of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.

Heroux started his career in public service as a community organizer in Guadalupe and went on to serve as the assistant director of the county’s Health Department from 1986 to 1997, when he was promoted to director of the department. He retired in 2005.

During his tenure with the county, Heroux was instrumental in establishing the Lompoc Wellness Center, the Santa Maria Women’s Health Center and the Santa Maria Animal Services Shelter.

All three resulted in big service changes for the community, Mickiewicz said.

“He was a huge advocate of the preventive aspects of public health,” she added.

Heroux championed tobacco bans in bars and restaurants and supported the county’s part in a lawsuit against the tobacco industry.

Heroux was also well-respected and well-liked by the employees of the Public Health Department, Mickiewicz said, adding that many had

e-mailed her since hearing of his death.

Heroux also understood the importance of working with grassroots and nonprofit organizations in strengthening the public safety net.

He was one of the founders and the first executive director of a multi-agency effort known as Bringing Our Community Home, a 10-year plan to end homelessness.

Most recently, in November at the unveiling of Homebase on G in Lompoc, Heroux was credited with inspiring the vision for the three-story, $9.1 million, 39-unit project for the mentally ill homeless and low-income workers.

A memorial service is planned at 11 a.m. Friday at the Calvary Church at 1 N. Calle Cesar Chavez, Suite 21, in Santa Barbara and burial will follow at the Santa Barbara Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission or to the Casa Esperanza Homeless Center.

source: www.lompocrecord.com

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