A few weeks ago when our local evenings regularly dropped into the freezing zone, a friend of ours who lives with his family in the Serrano neighborhood of El Dorado Hills made a startling discovery in his back yard.
It was dark outside, but still relatively early in the evening, when our friend — let’s call him John to avoid using real names — noticed a strange pile of blankets that had not been there before sitting outside his sliding glass door. John opened the door and poked at the blankets with curiosity, only to find a man curled up and sleeping inside them.
When relaying the story of the encounter to us later, John said he wasn’t sure who was more surprised at the situation, he or the homeless man — let’s call him Jack — who had simply sought shelter on our friend’s patio from the cold.
John also said his initial reaction after discovering Jack was a defensive one that quickly led him back inside his house. As he took a moment and thought about Jack’s desperate situation outside, John ventured back out and invited Jack into the warmth of his home. John then set out to find Jack a shelter for the evening.
I became peripherally involved in the story when John called me shortly thereafter asking if I knew of any homeless shelters in El Dorado County. He figured that I might have some knowledge on the topic, given I grew up here. I regretfully admitted I did not know of any shelter locations in the county, but offered that my wife and I would quickly make some calls.
All of us conducted some rapid research that included scouring the Internet and reaching out to our contact base. The research yielded a variety of resources in one form or another that we hadn’t necessarily known about before.
We learned about the Upper Room dining hall that provides free hot meals on Broadway in Placerville. The Community Resource Center on Broadway in Placerville provides emergency shelter. The El Dorado County Food Bank offers food assistance through its extensive network.
We knew about the food bank through volunteer work we’ve done at Rolling Hills Christian Church in El Dorado Hills, but my wife and I were a bit disappointed in ourselves that we didn’t know more about or couldn’t quickly find a definitive resource to assist John and Jack.
In the end, the best advice received was for John to reach out to the Sheriff’s Department to assist Jack, and that is what John did. The Sheriff’s Department responded and dutifully transported Jack to receive a meal and shelter for the evening.
However, the story hasn’t really stopped for any of us there. John says he finds himself thinking about Jack every day. Why did Jack pick his back yard, which borders an open area on a steep hill, and not someone else’s?
We are all keenly interested in learning more about what homeless resources are available in the county and how we may be able to help. We also find ourselves thinking that other El Dorado Hills residents would be interested in getting involved.
Living in El Dorado Hills, I can tell you it’s incredibly rare to see a homeless person in the community. But we know they are here and in the county, and we all have an opportunity to help and make a difference as John showed through his actions.
Dan Francisco is an El Dorado Hills-based public relations consultant to the high-tech industry.