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Style Magazine

Homeless for the Holidays

Let me introduce you to John, 55 years old, from Folsom. Last Thanksgiving, he sat around the dinner table with his children and their families, enjoying turkey and pecan pie. He and his wife were going through a divorce, he had an okay job that paid the bills (just), and lived alone, shopping at Walmart and WinCo. He was a bit of a loner but liked watching the 49ers at a bar every now and again, and he sometimes drove to Tahoe to hike. His parents passed away, and his siblings live on the other side of the country. He’s not very close to them.

This Thanksgiving, he’s spending it in a drop-in center for the homeless. The divorce became acrimonious, and his children slowly started to ignore his text messages and voicemails; as a result, John became depressed. On top of all that, he lost his job. Without much in savings, the unpaid bills mounted, and he moved into his car. At his age and now with untreated, ongoing depression, he found it difficult to find a new job. 

John’s story may sound unbelievable, but becoming homeless can and does happen that quickly—sometimes much quicker. And although we may think that it stems from addiction, the number one reason for people becoming homeless is poor mental health.  This is closely followed by economic reasons, just like John: the loss of a job and the cost of living. It’s when people are on the streets that they start to “self-medicate” with drugs and alcohol—to survive—for escapism.
 It’s hard to know exactly how many people are living without a home of their own, so statistics can paint an incorrect picture. Point-in-time counts are taken one night a year, like a census, but often these are not accurate. Plus, those without a home are nomadic, moving from county to county. Two things are true, however: The numbers should be seen as “fluid,” as people are transient; and sadly, the numbers are growing.

Fortunately, in our local area, there are ample organizations working to help people stay alive on the streets, if that’s what they choose, or to rehabilitate.

Acres of Hope
This program is a one-of-a-kind in the nation and specifically supports women and children. As Jackie Turner from the nonprofit explains, “It walks families through the process of change, healing, and growth that they need to completely overcome the cycles of homelessness, trauma, addiction, and poverty. We do this using a holistic approach that addresses whole-person, whole-family health. As a result, families graduating Acres of Hope are mentally strong, emotionally strong, spiritually strong, [physically] strong, and relationally strong.” Specific needs are addressed, and women are trained in the skills they need to thrive and grow.

Acres of Hope


As a graduate of the program says, “I’m truly blessed to be where I am today with my son, thanks to everyone at Acres of Hope [who opened] the doors for my son and me. If we didn't get accepted into Acres of Hope, who knows where I would be today.”

The Gathering Inn (TGI)
As the name suggests, this organization welcomes anyone who is without a home to benefit from their services. Whether it’s emergency housing, respite care after a hospital stay, or a more permanent abode, The Gathering Inn’s holistic approach means that residents and guests are respected, listened to, and provided with a case manager to help with their specific needs. 

Shelly, one of The Gathering Inn's many success stories


Shelly fell victim to homelessness approximately five years ago and has been in and out of TGI's emergency shelters with the hope of one day being able to lie in the comfort of her own bed. Currently, she’s housed and renting her own room. “Shelly is a bright light, holds compassion in her heart, and is a good friend with a spunky personality; her unique qualities and motivation are what carried her through her journey. She’s an inspiration that moving out of homelessness and achieving sustainable housing is possible,” shares Darlene Cullivan, TGI’s chief philanthropy officer.

Powerhouse Ministries
Powerhouse by name, powerhouse by nature, this nonprofit is well-known in Folsom for the work that it does—and with good reason. It’s on a Christian mission to change lives and bring hope, whether that’s through a smile and a morning coffee, access to a shower and a free phone, or via programs for women and children (capacity has doubled due to demand) and, recently added, men too. 

Powerhouse Ministries


Powerhouse Ministries’ offerings are unique in Folsom, and their goal has remained steadfast over the last 31 years: to end the cycle of addiction abuse, incarceration, and poverty.  Those without a home can refer themselves while many are referred as they leave jail and the hospital. “Many are born and bred from Folsom—these people are not strangers,” explains Director of Operations Jon Ingraham.  

Powerhouse Ministries


John—whom we met earlier—is on Powerhouse Ministries’ course for men. A regular for morning coffee, he jumped at the chance to turn his life around.

Hart of Folsom
Liz Ekenstedt is the new president of Hart, after considering the national homeless problem and wanting to make an impact in her “own backyard.” The team of volunteers at Hart helps those who are ready to help themselves, as well as managing Folsom’s winter shelter from January to March. 

Hart is a small organization providing six transitional housing units, which contains a waiting list and tends to be occupied. Once housed, they receive a case manager and mentor to help them rehabilitate, reenter the world of work, and start fresh.  

Only Kindness
This El Dorado County-based nonprofit focuses its resources on veterans. In the 14 months since July 2022, Only Kindness had assisted 166 veterans and their families, at least 149 of which suffer from mental health illness, some for an average of 26 years.

The organization receives referrals from many sources; once the veteran is in the program, case managers strive to understand from the individual what they need as a priority to stabilize and work through the immediate crisis.

 As Rene Evans from Only Kindness explains, “We connect them to veteran-centric opportunities to get them back to stability. The very substance of our program is to provide stabilization, a continuum of care through engagement and in-depth case management and supportive services.”

Jake’s Journey Home
Jeanne Shuman began Jake’s Journey Home after the death of her son, Jake, in 2019.  He was a U.S. Navy Seabee veteran and small business owner and worked with Jeanne to assist veterans navigating Veterans’ Affairs for benefits. She continues this fight, not only for Jake, but also her son Joey who passed in 2021 from fentanyl poisoning and mental health issues. 

Jake’s Journey Home


You’ll now find Shuman driving around Folsom, trying to engage with people without shelter and helping them get back on their feet. As long as she’s not in danger, each and every individual receives the same treatment. She displays compassion and kindness, while helping them navigate the steps needed for change—whether meeting with a therapist, attending a medical appointment, or getting a hot shower.

So, what can we do to help, and where do we start? Shuman advises we speak to our children and listen to what they have to say. Help them to have good mental health with a strong support network, so they know where to turn in times of crisis.


•    Recognize that a person without a home is still a person; say hi and help them feel seen.
•    Buy them a bottle of water and perhaps canned soup. Don’t buy them bags and bags of groceries that they may not be able to carry; they’re often left behind.
•    If someone is endangering themselves or others, call the local police department. Don’t try to be the hero and help.
•    Donate money to the organizations mentioned here; they rely on donations, large and small, to do their amazing work both day to day and to fund their bigger strategies. Whatever you can afford will be gratefully received.
•    Invest your time. Mentor an at-risk teen, provide food to be delivered on the streets, or volunteer in a shelter or at Acres of Hope's thrift store, ReNew. 
•    Finally, look after your own family and relationships. Stop and really listen. 

This holiday season, try to check in with the Johns and all those absent from the Thanksgiving table. A “how are you doing?” could be the lifeline they need. 

by Caroline Kings
Photos courtesy of their respective companies or organizations.