HART of Folsom: A Helping Hand for the Homeless
Mar 29, 2018 10:46AM
Yes, there are homeless people in Folsom; fortunately, a new nonprofit now exists to help them. Last July, several local churches and other faith-based groups formed HART (Homeless Assistance Resource Team) of Folsom to support local homeless people as they strive to improve their circumstances. Ed Kelly, former Elk Grove assistant chief of police, who had been involved in Elk Grove’s HART program and moved to Folsom in 2016, is the group’s first president. Through a city contract, the group also receives advice and guidance from a homeless specialist with Sacramento Self-Help Housing.
Homelessness is not a failing. A person or family who is barely making ends meet—not uncommon in this economy—may not have the means to survive a job loss or catastrophic financial reversal. “If they don’t have the resources to get up,” Kelly says, “they just spiral down.” Minimum wage, as Kelly points out, doesn’t cover rent in Folsom. HART’s goals include helping the homeless with immediate basic needs and supporting them with resources to become self-sufficient again. Its efforts are focused in three areas:
Even mild winters aren’t comfortable to someone sleeping outside in a cold rain. While many homeless individuals have some type of shield against the weather—their cars or a series of friends’ couches, primarily—as many as 40 people in Folsom have nothing. “They are completely open to the environment,” Kelly says. “At least a car is enclosed and can be locked.” For these people, HART operates a winter shelter during the three coldest months. The space consists of 20 beds—a city ordinance limit—that are set up each week at a different church or other place of worship. The residents check in each night, eat a hot dinner prepared by volunteers, then leave the following morning with a brown bag breakfast. They can come back as often as they choose. This winter, about 30 individuals used the shelter once a week or more.
Master lease-shared housing
This program, similar to shared housing, is getting underway. HART plans to lease homes and in turn rent the rooms to homeless individuals or families. HART will be responsible to the landlord, and people who cannot afford shelter will have safe, warm, short-term housing for a manageable cost.
Volunteers help homeless individuals put their lives back together by assisting them through challenging processes, such as renewing driver’s licenses or appearing in court, and connecting them with community programs including job training and free medical care through Elica clinics or volunteer doctors and dentists. “We’re not trying to replace other nonprofits,” Kelly says. “We try to connect people to their resources.” Recently, HART volunteers successfully helped three men find jobs.
“We want the homeless to get to know who we are,” Kelly says, “so that they come to us and we can help them move forward. We let them know they’re valued, [which they greatly] appreciate.” hartoffolsom.org
by Linda Holderness
photos by DANTE FONTANA