Roger Heroux, longtime advocate for the homeless population in Santa Barbara and former Public Health Director for Santa Barbara County, died Monday just after 3 p.m. He had been battling prostate cancer, which had spread to his lungs. He was at home surrounded by family.
Mike Foley, executive director of Casa Esperanza, said Heroux’s level of kindness and gentleness could not be duplicated. His imprint on the community is immeasurable, Foley said. “I can’t imagine trying to tackle the issue of homelessness without Roger.” Heroux was a member of the Casa Esperanza board.
He more recently served as the county’s homeless coordinator and chair of the county’s 10-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness, as well as the executive director of Bringing Our Community Home, a plan designed to end chronic homelessness. Said Ken Williams, a county social worker who works with the homeless: “Roger was an institution, a man who worked tirelessly for the poor. We all are less because of his passing. I will miss this gentle and compassionate man.”
Heroux, 68 years old when he passed away, spent several decades in health care had been active in the American Public Health Association, the Medical Group Management Association, and the Health Executives Association of California. He was chosen as executive of the year in Santa Barbara County in 1987 and was the executive director of the Ventura-Santa Barbara Health Systems Agency for eight years.
A resolution passed by the county board of supervisors when Heroux retired in 2005, after 19 years with County Public Health, said Heroux was “highly acknowledged as a man of honor, integrity and compassion; and the way Roger has lived his life and devoted his career are proof that nice guys can finish first.” The resolution lauded Heroux as an “advocate and champion for ensuring access to health care, universal health care coverage, and the crucial role of public health in protecting and improving the health of all members of the community.”
“It’s not possible to tell how many lives Roger has touched,” said Michele Mickiewicz, deputy director of the Public Health Department. “The world is missing a little light and grace because Roger has left.” His wife, in an email sent Monday, said Roger was a man of great faith who always said he trusted in his Lord.
Foley had talked to Heroux about three weeks ago, and Heroux told him the cancer treatment had taken its toll on his body. He was very ill and often exhausted, he told Foley. His wife, in an email sent Monday, said Roger was a man of great faith who always said he trusted in his Lord.
There will be a memorial service at 11 a.m. on Friday at Calvary Chapel, 1 N. Calle Cesar Chavez, Suite 21. Heroux’s burial will follow at the Santa Barbara Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that a donation be made to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission and/or to the Casa Esperanza Homeless Center.