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Amazing Grace

10/31/2008 05:00PM ● Published by Super Admin

If there is no place like home, why do so many of us take ours for granted? No answers seem sufficient in light of homelessness, a condition that has and continues to affect thousands of foothill residents.

Thankfully, there are non-profit organizations such as United Outreach of El Dorado County (UOEDC), a non-profit corporation that has operated Grace Place, a homeless shelter for county residents, which officially closed this past April. With the help of a $1.47 million grant from the state, however, UOEDC is planning on opening a new and improved facility this winter, provided that it meets various conditions.

This monetary endowment is the result of tireless effort and lobbying by the UOEDC and Grace Place, the latter of which, when it opened its doors three years ago, served three homeless persons per night. Upon closing, it served 65 individuals nightly, on average, though capacity called for a maximum of 45. Because there is a definite and growing need for homeless shelters in the area, UOEDC will size the new facility to accommodate 75 people.

It is difficult to think about homelessness, especially during the uncertainty of our times, when so many people are losing their homes and facing true challenges. It is especially tough during the holidays when those who celebrate, do so when so many less fortunate families cannot afford a meal or a safe place to live. It is exactly the spirit of giving, however, that propels UOEDC’s continued advocacy on behalf of the area’s growing homeless population.

“As in every community, there are many who understand the need to provide help to homeless people and assist them to transition into a supportive life,” says Art Edwards, president of UOEDC and former Grace Place volunteer. “We are proud of the number of clients who have moved out of Grace Place and into jobs, college and transitional housing. We [recently] heard that one [person] just received a $5,000 grant to attend a local college.”

Small victories with large societal consequences are the hallmark of non-profit organizations like UOEDC, which, with the help of organizers and volunteers, forge ahead in a largely thankless effort on behalf of the temporarily downtrodden or seriously despairing. Now, the County and about two dozen other agencies and resources have committed their efforts to have a “programmatic approach” to the shelter, not just a place to house people; the new shelter will offer a “full service resource program.” Naturally, this fight is fraught with obstacles including monetary challenges, and oftentimes, negative perceptions. But still, Edwards and all those affiliated with UOEDC, as well as the former Grace Place, admirably persevere.

Because no county or government agency financially supports UOEDC, it relies on gifts and donations from individuals, corporations, churches and generous organizations to operate. “If we had a continual and dependable source of operating funds, we could concentrate on programs to help the homeless,” says Edwards, who adds that future plans of the UOEDC include providing health services, counseling and training to homeless individuals to help them successfully transition back into a job and a place of their own.


To learn more about UOEDC or to make a donation, visit uoedc.org. For volunteer opportunities, call Linda Gates at 530-644-5695.

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