A commitment to help the homeless

By Taylor Engle
La Habra Journal

It’s difficult to feel down on your luck, hopeless, or all alone—this is a truth that Alice Linton and husband Donald Kettlewell recognize. This ability to empathize spurned their idea for Back to the Future, a nonprofit organization centered in La Habra and Fullerton to help homeless people in any way possible.

Photo courtesy Alice Linton
Donald Kettlewell hands out supplies on Skid Row in Los Angeles.

The name Back to the Future was inspired by the fact that all of the homeless had a normal life at one point. Linton and Kettlewell want to take them back to that starting point and give them an even better future.
“We began volunteering about two years ago with local nonprofits in Fullerton,” Linton said. “We met a bulk of the homeless community and we got to know them really well.”
Soon after volunteering for the nonprofits, Linton and Kettlewell  decided to start their own: Back to the Future, a two-man operation, in December 2016.
After going with some homeless people to the local shelters and seeing the conditions they were in, Linton and Kettlewell were shocked at the way the homeless are subjected to living.
“We go to areas with the homeless population and bring them toiletries, food, and clothing,” Linton said.
They got to know the La Habra homeless as well because of their business The Keeper of Books, a tax preparation service.

Some of the essential supplies that Back to the Future collects and distributes to the homeless.

“All the homeless are welcome to come into the business at any time to use our facilities,” Linton said.
In addition to the open invitation, Linton always keeps extra toiletries in her car. “Toothbrushes, tooth paste, shampoo, flip flops, running shoes,” Linton said. “Whatever you’d need to get by.”
Linton and Kettlewell don’t exclusively help the local homeless. Although this is the focus of their organization, they frequently travel to Skid Row with clothing, food and toiletries to hand out.
“You learn a lot about the homeless when you work with them and bring food to them,” Linton said. “At first we were bringing them apples and nutrition bars, but most homeless have issues with teeth. You have to bring something they can chew and that won’t give anyone an allergic reaction.”
The couple also teams up with local nonprofit organizations to assist in finding housing for the homeless.
“There’s an organization that does event planning,” Linton said. “After their events, we take the leftovers to the Fullerton train station, which is where most of the homeless congregate.”
Back to the Future also goes to Downtown Fullerton once a month along with two hairdressers to give free haircuts and shaves to the homeless.
As if Linton and Kettlewell weren’t busy enough either shopping for the homeless or delivering goods to them, they even open their home once a month. Homeless friends of theirs are welcome to come over to shower, do laundry, and sit down to a home-cooked meal.
“The homemade meal is probably the biggest attraction because it’s the only one they get all month,” Linton said.
Going forward, Linton and Kettlewell want to expand the awareness of Back to the Future. They’ve recently started a Facebook page and are hoping to increase donations.
“We take no salary from this,” Linton said. “We want the money to come in and go out, all for the homeless.”
Furthermore, Linton hopes to reach out to local middle schools and high schools to speak to students about the homeless.
“The label ‘homeless’ is almost as bad as a criminal record. It makes it very difficult for them to find a job or get off the street. These are people who no one looks at or pretends they’re not there when they could actually be helping,” Linton said.
As far as further collaborations or different forms of outreach, Linton and Kettlewell are in no rush.
“It’s not that we sit there and brainstorm what we could do next. We wait to see what areas are lacking and how we can fill them. If someone isn’t doing something in a particular area, we will think of a way to,” Linton said. “We want this to evolve organically.”

For more information or to find out how you might help to to their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/backtothefutureoc.org/

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.