Only Kindness; A Heart for Homeless: Cause and Effect of El Dorado County
El Dorado County’s small-town charm and natural beauty—apple orchards, wineries, rolling rivers, and forested mountains—are the characteristics that define the region to residents and visitors alike. Usually, homeless people don’t come to mind, but the population is growing and it’s a challenge for those fighting to ease its impact.
Only Kindness, an entirely volunteer-run organization, was formed to work with homeless individuals and families in crisis by assisting them in remaining safely sheltered, or help get them off the streets and into housing, with an additional focus on serving veterans.
The Placerville location was established approximately 10 years ago as an extension of a Bay Area group. When Founder Jennifer La Force and her team met with local advocate Rene Evans they recognized a mutual calling. “Our work was relevant and very much needed in the foothill communities,” she says. “Our mission is to serve disadvantaged people, regardless of what that disadvantage might be: disability, poverty, or illness.”
Along with David Hull, a three-year board member, and Evans, the current executive director, La Force and the group of volunteers have worked diligently to advocate for the homeless in El Dorado County.
“We have a small team of volunteers and case managers,” explains La Force. “It takes an extraordinary person to volunteer and work with Only Kindness because one must be both compassionate and professional. We must understand issues that are diverse, from the critical component of privacy and confidentiality to what services are available and accessible.”
To date, Only Kindness has successfully housed 30 homeless individuals and families using the county’s first ever Rapid Rehousing funds from the California Department of Housing and Community Development. Currently, the nonprofit provides supportive services to more than 100 local veterans and, as resources allow, assistance to anyone, without condition, who is homeless or in crisis.
While La Force acknowledges that success stories for the homeless and needy are far too few, some of Only Kindness’ positive outcomes have been publicized. A segment that aired on local news last December featured homeless veteran Keith Lozier, who had been living in his car in a parking lot. Working together, the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Homeless Outreach Team and David Zelinsky, a volunteer serving the Only Kindness Rapid Rehousing team, were able to get Lozier into a small, safe home just in time for the holidays.
La Force affirms that collaboration and community involvement are key steps toward resolving homelessness. “The help we can provide is limited only by the resources we have,” La Force says. “If you have time or dollars to donate, we can help more people in more ways.”
One way to do so is by attending Only Kindness’ annual spring fund-raiser on April 21, featuring dinner and a silent and live dessert auction at the Veterans Memorial Hall in Placerville.
BY Janet Scherr
photos by DANTE FONTANA