Local homeless champion and advocate Roger Heroux died Monday after battling prostate cancer.
Heroux served as director of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and was involved with the group Bringing Our Community Home, which seeks to end chronic homelessness. He also sat on the board of Casa Esperanza.
Heroux was active in multiple professional associations, including the American Public Health Association, the Medical Group Management Association and the County Health Executives Association of California.
John Buttny, who worked with Heroux on the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, said Heroux was the “moral voice” of the plan.
“He brought wisdom and compassion to his work as a strong and tireless advocate for homeless people, many of whom he knew by name,” Buttny said. “He was respected by all he came in contact with.”
County social worker Ken Williams said Heroux was always a pleasure to work with.
While Heroux served as public health director, Williams said Heroux was always approachable when he needed good advice or had medical needs for the homeless.
“Roger was one of the most humble and caring man that I have ever known,” he said. “He had much smoother edges than myself and could reach any audience with his intellect and heart.”
Williams said Heroux’s role can never be replaced and “our community is much poorer with his passing.”
“I’ve missed Roger Heroux’s presence for a while,” said Emily Allen, who worked with Heroux on the South Coast Homeless Advisory Committee. “He was a great voice for the poor and the sick. Roger could speak to very different people and convince them all that radically changing the way we provide services to the homeless made both economic and moral sense.”
Robert Pearson, executive director and CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara, agreed.
“As a public official, Roger understood the job,” he said, adding that Heroux wasn’t a bureaucrat but a public servant who cared about people. “He was smart, compassionate and believed in responsive government. He made me proud to be a public servant. He was, as his name implies, a true hero and role model to me and many others. I will miss him greatly.”
Heroux served on the Casa Esperanza board for the past two years, and Mike Foley, executive director of the shelter, said Heroux had been a man with a vision.
Foley said he always appreciated how Heroux was the same with everyone, from homeless on the streets to county supervisors.
“His love, empathy and kindness were almost always on display,” he said.
“For those who want to make a difference in the lives of people in poverty, in recovery, in pain — we need look no further than Roger’s example of how it is supposed to be done,” he said.
A viewing will be from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday at Welch-Ryce-Haider funeral home, 15 E. Sola St.
A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Calvary Chapel, 1 N. Calle Cesar Chavez, Suite 21. Burial will follow at Santa Barbara Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that a donation be made to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission and/or Casa Esperanza.
— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.