Tustin counts four top ‘influencers,’ including homeless advocate Mohammed Aly – Orange County Register

By THERESA WALKER | thwalker@scng.com | Orange County Register

If attention is influence, Mohammed Aly has reaped it in abundance this past year.

A vocal homeless advocate, the 28-year-old Tustin resident was chosen by the Orange County Register as one of the 100 “top influencers” in 2017.

Ever a polarizing figure, Aly is a persistent thorn in the side of county officials.

Some wonder just how much Aly actually accomplishes, given his confrontational, disruptive style.

Others praise his passion and commitment, his relentless drive to raise awareness of the needs swirling around the county’s growing homeless population, particularly at the encampments along the Santa Ana River bike trail and in the Santa Ana Civic Center.

“You need people like Mohammed Aly,” said Paul Leon, co-founder of Illumination Foundation, which grew over a decade from a small, grassroots effort to a well-respected organization that has provided health care and temporary housing to tens of thousands of homeless people.

“There is so much apathy and so much politics,” Leon said. “It really is tiring to battle the powers that be.”

But if Aly’s fighting style is tiring, Leon says it’s also essential.

“Believe it or not, I hate to say it, (Aly) opens the door for people like us. Because, with him, it’s going to be confrontation.”

Leon, 63, a former Orange County public health nurse who battled bureaucracy over health outreach to people on the street — and who has had his own…

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