As local government officials search for solutions to the homelessness issue, one San Benito County couple has taken its own initiative, establishing a drop-in center for those often avoided and forgotten on the streets.
On Oct. 10, Linda Lampe and her husband, Patrick, opened My Father’s House.
Located in the basement of the former Hazel Hawkins Hospital—site of today’s Monterey Street Business Plaza in Hollister—the facility provides the homeless with food, a hot shower, a clean set of clothes, and more often than not, a compassionate ear over a hot cup of coffee.
In an interview with BenitoLink, Linda Lampe stated that the purpose of My Father’s House is to make the homeless “independent and productive citizens,” while creating a "greater awareness" of their plight.
Lampe (pronounced, Lampē) explained that the center’s name was taken from biblical scripture, “In my Father’s house are many mansions,” (John 14:2). In her opinion, the homeless are beautiful edifices that as a result of bad luck or circumstance have fallen into a state of disrepair. By supplying individuals with love, support, and guidance, Lampe hopes to rebuild each mansion, one life at a time.
Ever since she was a young girl growing up in Tennessee, Lampe, an ordained pastor who heads the non-denominational True Life Christians Church in Hollister, has felt a religious calling to serve the homeless. She recalled a Hank Williams song from her youth that left an indelible impression upon her.
The song, "A Tramp on the Street," tells the story a man, who was once much loved, dying hungry and forgotten on a street. Williams then woefully compares Jesus Christ’s final hours to that of the man’s, asking the listener, “If Jesus should come and knock on your door, ….would you welcome him in or turn him away?”
These lyrics have been the anthem of Lampe’s street ministry for years, sustaining her through days visiting homeless encampments, attending court hearings with homeless defendants, driving ailing homeless persons to medical appointments, or lobbying local politicians to provide winter relief for those without a roof over their heads.
“I want to be a voice for the voiceless, but not assume that I know what they need,” Lampe said. She added that there’s not a one size fits all to homelessness. Each individual has his or her unique challenges and needs. With this in mind, Lampe created the blueprint for My Father’s House.
The facility’s entrance is located at the back of the former hospital. Descending a flight of stairs, a client—the term Lampe uses for one who visits—signs in at a desk staffed by Shannon, a homeless woman who volunteers full-time at the center and who declined to give her last name for privacy reasons.
If wanting to shower, returning clients retrieve their toiletries from a personalized plastic container neatly shelved along with dozens of others across from Shannon’s workspace. New clients are presented with a file cabinet full of shampoo, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and deodorant to choose from. Separate shower times are designated for men and women.
Past the small office space is a long corridor with rooms set-up to meet each client’s needs.
A small kitchen table sits at the center of the Refreshment Area, a room where hungry clients can get a cup of coffee and a pastry in the morning or a warm cup of soup or hot chili in the afternoon. It’s often at the table, Lampe explained, where the “biggest ministry takes place.”
Listening as a client admits to a lapse of sobriety or watching a war veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Lampe, a self-described “lost-ologist,” assists those who have gone astray find their way. With nearly 15 years of serving the homeless, she has a myriad of contacts and resources she calls upon for help, including those specializing in alcohol and drug intervention and a former homeless vet who’s on staff with the Veteran’s Administration.
Next to the Refreshment Area is a room containing shelves of canned foods, bread, and boxed cereal for those who have no time to sit and eat.
Behind a door labeled "The Chapel" is a living room area complete with a couch set, two chairs, table lamps, and a television. Lampe described this space as a “place to rest one’s weary soles and a place to rest one’s weary soul.”
A client in need of clothing is led through The Chapel and past a fabric partition into "My Sister’s Closet"—an area converted into a walk-in size closet with plastic shelves holding donated clothes organized by gender and size. The items are washed, neatly folded, and wrapped in clear cellophane. Written by local youth from the First Presbyterian Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, notes of affirmation, like “Be True to Yourself,” and encouragement, such as “Jesus loves you,” are tucked into each item of clothing.
Several rooms in the space rented by the Lampes remain vacant. Lampe envisions a computer lab occupying one. And in another a workshop where clients can learn a trade.
Those who seek spiritual direction can attend Bible studies led by Lampe during the week. Worship services are held on Saturdays in the sanctuary of La Iglesia Cristiana El Rebaño de Dios. Located on the former hospital’s first floor, the Spanish-church is led by Pastor Rigo, who doesn’t charge True Life Christians to conduct their services there, according to Lampe.
There is neither a kitchen nor beds—save for one used by a dog—found in the drop-in center. Food is typically prepared outside the facility by volunteers or donated by local catering businesses. And once the center at closes for the day clients must leave the area.
“No Smoking” signs dot the building’s exterior and the use of drugs and alcohol on the premises is prohibited.
The Lampes pay the rent and cover most of the day-to-day expenses. And Linda’s unusually long days often end with loads of towels taken from My Father’s House and washed at the couple's residence.
Though he was unaware that Lampe had opened My Father’s House, San Benito County District 3 Supervisor and Homeless Coalition board member, Robert Rivas, praised her efforts. “She’s has a strong heart to help the homeless…and the fact that she cares is what makes San Benito County great,” Rivas said. He added, “I welcome anything people are willing to do to help the (homeless) situation.”
Rivas, whose district encompasses the 900 block of Monterey St. where My Father's House is located, hasn’t received any feedback from his constituents regarding the drop-in center.
However, on a recent morning three residents gathered outside their homes, staring at a homeless man using a cellphone across the street. When asked by this reporter to share their thoughts about My Father’s House, each emphatically responded, “No comment.”
Another resident, who spoke only Spanish, stated to this reporter, “No supe (I knew nothing about it)."
A fellow tenant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in an interview with BenitoLink, respects Lampe’s passion and commends her efforts but admitted that some tenants and neighbors weren’t as enthusiastic. “A lot of people are not happy it,” the person said.
The tenant has noticed an increased police and ambulance presence in the area. And though concerning, the tenant added, “Everything seems be OK for now.” So far, the business owner hasn’t seen a drop off in revenue, but hoped that Lampe would find a different location. “I would love for her to have her own place.”
Lampe has no plans of going anywhere soon. Citing her First Amendment rights, she said, “I’m a church, and we’re a different congregation.”
A framed aerial photograph of Hollister hangs behind the front desk of My Father’s House—a reminder to Lampe that her reach must extend beyond Monterey Street.
One person who has benefited from Lampe’s ministry and convictions is Shannon, the homeless volunteer.
When the Lampes announced the opening of My Father’s House at one of their Sunday fellowship meals at Hollister’s McCarthy Park a few months ago, Shannon decided to “check it out.”
She’s been a volunteer ever since, and the experience has been life-changing. “It’s helped me out a lot. I’m able to socialize more,” Shannon said in an interview with BenitoLink. She especially enjoys helping fellow homeless individuals select their new clothes.
Since the center’s opening in October, nearly 130 destitute hands have signed the sheet that sits on Shannon’s desk. With arms wide open, Linda and Patrick Lampe have welcomed every single one of them into My Father’s House.
For more information about My Father's House and other homeless resources, see below.
1) My Father's House
910 Monterey Street
(Enter in back parking lot)
Office number: (831) 801-2922
Pastor Linda Lampe: (831) 801-7775
Day Center Hours: Monday thru Friday, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Shower times for: Men, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; Women, 1:30-4:30 p.m.
Worship Services and Fellowship Dinner: Saturday, 2-5:30 p.m.
Fellowship Meals on Sunday: 2:30 p.m. at McCarthy Park and 3:30 p.m. at Fourth Street Bridge (near San Benito River encampment)
(Volunteers and donations are welcome)
2) The Homeless Coalition of San Benito County
Winter Shelter (now open)
3239 Southside Road
Phone number: (831) 801-9531
Check in: 4 p.m.
Bus pick-up (corner of 3rd St/West St.): 5:30 p.m.
Dinner: 7 p.m.
3) Warming Shelter (expanded winter shelter Opening Dec. 1)
3235 Southside Road
Bus pick-up at the Riverbed at 4:30-4:45 p.m.
Contact Teresa at (831) 293-3460
4) Emmaus House (Domestic violence shelter for women and children)
Call, (877) 778-7978
5) Helping Hands Program (permanent housing program for chronically homeless with disabilities)
Contact Christina at (831) 638-3316
6) Family Winter Shelter (families are housed December-March)
Contact Grace at (831) 637-9293
7) Community Services & Workforce Development (America's Job Center for California)
1111 San Felipe Road, Ste. 108
Phone: (831) 637-0435
Contact Andi Anderson at, firstname.lastname@example.org
8) Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HIV/AIDS patients may be eligible for housing assistance)
Contact Grace for a confidential appointment at (831) 637-9293 or e-mail at, email@example.com