Outreach to homeless residents continues during COVID-19

Facilities change standard procedures to provide care for San Benito County’s transient population.
H.O.M.E. Resource Center in Hollister. File photo by Carmel de Bertaut.
H.O.M.E. Resource Center in Hollister. File photo by Carmel de Bertaut.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, those caring for the local homeless population have had to adjust their ways of providing care while keeping people healthy and safe as the virus spreads through communities in San Benito County. 

“This has been so hard, but it’s not about the now. It’s about tomorrow” said Linda Lampe, owner of outreach center My Father’s House and pastor with Hollister Outreach Community.

My Father’s House is closed until further notice, as Lampe’s guests are in close proximity to each other, and there is a high risk of infection and illness. After agonizing over a possible closure and discussing her concerns with the Hollister Outreach Community Board of Directors, Lampe said it was decided that the safest course of action was to close.

Lampe and her volunteers still administer to her homeless flock by driving to their locations around the county to bring them what they need.

“By no means have we gone away,” she said.

At the H.O.M.E Resource Center at 1161 San Felipe Road in Hollister, guests are staying around the clock under the shelter-in-place order issued by San Benito County on March 17. Extra measures are being taken to ensure the homeless shelter is properly sanitized to safeguard guests and staff. The shelter’s cleaning service comes in twice a day to thoroughly disinfect the building. Following the same rules as all San Benito residents, guests only leave for essential errands such as medical appointments. Protocols include:

  • Isolating individuals exhibiting any symptoms and notifying Hazel Hawkins Hospital.
  • Ins and outs are limited to all guests. Leaving the shelter is limited to activities such as doctor appointments, prescription pick-ups and job interviews.
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided for all shelter guests.
  • Social distancing is being practiced at all times. Dinner tables are being taken out into the courtyard.
  • Community groups who bring dinner are not allowed to serve meals at this time. Food can be dropped off and staff will serve dinner.
  • The shelter is not taking any out of county guests at this time.

Over the next few days, shelter staff and county employees will work out the logistics of dealing with new guests coming to shelter. Currently, 35 residents are staying overnight at the facility. That’s only a portion of the county’s estimated homeless population. The county had 283 homeless residents in 2019, the lowest number since 2011, when 193 individuals were counted in the homeless census conducted every two years. The county reached a peak of 651 homeless residents in 2015.

Program Manager Christina Soto said the shelter might receive a no-touch thermometer from San Benito County Public Health Services. She added that the county has talked about having a unit for isolation for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or who is otherwise sick. Social distancing can be difficult at the shelter, Soto said, but they are following the guidelines of public health services.

“At dinner time it is only five to 10 people at a time,” Soto said. “Same thing with the smoking section, only five people at a time, for people who need air only five people at a time.” 

Both Lampe and the H.O.M.E. Resource Center are in need of supplies, as their outreach and client base have increased. Lampe said that although her store Worth Saving Mercantile and Thrift  at 101 Fifth Street in Hollister is closed, donations can be dropped there. She asks that those who donate call ahead to be sure someone is available to receive them. Lampe’s needs include water, blankets, socks, gas cards or funding for her drivers, to-go plates, gloves, hand sanitizers, toilet paper, blankets and tents. She also needs recyclable grocery bags, foil and plastic wrap. Lampe can be reached at (831) 801-7775.

The resource center also needs paper and cleaning products, and is in need of more staff.

Contact the homeless shelter at (831) 256-1852.


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Carmel de Bertaut

Carmel has a BA in Natural Sciences/Biodiversity Stewardship from San Jose State University and an AA in Communications Studies from West Valley Community College. She reports on science and the environment, arts and human interest pieces. Carmel has worked in the ecological and communication fields and is an avid creative writer and hiker. She has been reporting for BenitoLink since May, 2018 and covers Science and the Environment and Arts and Culture.