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Beating the Odds: PJ Ministry and SCPD Join Forces to House the Homeless

It is a remarkable success story. A group of formerly homeless individuals and families—once regulars hanging out with shopping carts of belongings at Central Park—found housing thanks to the efforts of PJ Ministry, the Santa Clara Police Department’s Nuisance Suppression Unit and a $220,000 grant from the City of Santa Clara to house the most vulnerable of the City’s homeless.

The story began in 2013 when Santa Clara resident Lynn Murphy noticed that more and more homeless people were hanging out at Central Park. Rather than turn a blind eye and walk on by, she decided to do something about it.

Murphy had no training in outreach and limited financial resources. What she had in abundance, however, was compassion born of her own personal heartaches and the conviction and religious faith that she was called to follow Jesus by ministering to “some of the least among us”—the homeless.

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Murphy became a street chaplain through Chaplain Fellowship Ministries. Then, with her friend Annette Walls, they founded PJ Ministry. PJ stands both for pleasing Jesus and the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that they sometimes made for the homeless.

To get to know the homeless regulars in Central Park, Murphy and Walls began visiting, bringing pizza occasionally and catered food for holiday parties. They passed out personal supplies. A local hair salon gave free haircuts. They celebrated when a baby was born and mourned at the funerals of Howard Kimura and Victor Flores.

Friends and strangers alike helped financially. Once the ministry came under the umbrella of their church, the Campbell Church of Christ, donations were tax deductible.

“PJ Ministry is about meeting homeless people and getting to know them personally and getting to know what their needs are, and then treating them with dignity and respect,” said Walls, a registered nurse who helped with the post-surgery recovery of two of the men.

As the women’s friendship with the homeless in Central Park grew, the mission of PJ Ministry expanded to include housing them. Murphy contacted Santa Clara Police Department (SCPD) Sgt. Richard Fitting with the Nuisance Suppression Unit.

Police Involvement

Murphy’s timing was perfect. Also in 2013, SCPD had noticed an increase in the unsheltered population of the City and launched an analysis of the problem.

Based on SCPD findings and recommendations, in July 2015 the Santa Clara City Council approved a two-year revenue agreement with the County of Santa Clara for $220,000 to provide intensive case management and homeless prevention services to Santa Clara residents. More recently, in September 2017, a two-year agreement for $350,000 was approved: http://tinyurl.com/yafyc2pe.

PJ Ministry was the initial helping hand that connected the homeless in Central Park to the police department, which referred them to the county for assistance. Of those in Central Park, eight found housing thanks to these combined efforts.

“We’re with people who have full-time jobs—or two—but can’t afford rent in Silicon Valley. The Valley is splitting up families,” said Chaplain Murphy.

Testimonials

 “Being homeless is isolating. Simple conversation was a blessing,” said Luci Barnum, attending a celebration honoring the Central Park “family” at Campbell Church of Christ’s 10 a.m. worship service on Sept. 24. Other formerly homeless people also expressed appreciation.

“When I was homeless, I was very sick and my money was gone and PJ Ministry made it possible for me to stay in the motel. I am physically and spiritually thankful for all of your help,” said V. Bowen.

“PJ Ministry absolutely put sunshine and love of God into my new home! Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” said Dawn Hamn.

“It has always made me feel so loved and welcomed,” said Sheila Volk.

“PJ Ministry showed all of us that life is something worth rejoicing,” said Mary Costa.

Sgt. Fitting, though unable to attend the celebration, shared a recent email from a still homeless woman.

“I was parked overnight (in an area) where I normally sleep in my car… two extremely nice officers tapped on the window and asked if I was all right and how I was doing, etc. They were so professional and yet so caring,” wrote the homeless woman in an email to the SCPD in September. “The female officer suggested I contact a # 211 for some homeless assistance, like possibly a place to sleep, a shower, etc. Then they wished me a good night after telling me to be careful.”

“What great officers and what a superb example for the Santa Clara PD, they set!  No reprimands, no hostility, just friendly, professional concern,” wrote the woman.

“I want people to see the beauty in how if you reach out and pay it forward, you can see the blessings in helping someone,” said PJ Ministry Chaplain Murphy before heading for Texas for emergency response training for chaplains. View PJ Ministry’s video on You Tube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmlbxx5mAUw.

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8 Comments
  1. Donna E Redcross 2 years ago
    Reply

    Wish my family had met you. My family suffered.We lived well in SC. Husband made 85,000 yr then suddenly laid off. His health changed over couple yrs un noticed at first and he refused Drs but one day took him to VA they said he fine. Refused my word. He got worse. Very combative he threw check book at me said we have 2000 left now you do it. I paniced and was in shock. I did know what to do. We had a child to raise. Not ours but who can say this since we raised her from 19 days old. She was our universe. Now 1800/mth SS. My husband Dx w/ Vascular Dementia after 9 mini strokes revealed. More of my story to follow

  2. Donna E Redcross 2 years ago
    Reply

    9 mini strokes left my husband as my patient. My child lost her spot without notice. My dreams lost for her. Depression. Hard. Lost home. Homeless in SC. Bought RV lived on street off Lafayette in business parking lot. Not too bad till street guy found us and learned we had income. He snuck around at nite stealing my gas from my Van I used to get child to school. Caught him he threatened me. Said he could come back any night slit my childs throat kill husband make me live to suffer. I went after him with a screw driver. Little did I know he was pure evil crazy. Cops knew him. He came back late next nite with a guy said he was a witch Dr. and could see everything I did and had him put some evil thing on my family. I never scared easy but suddenly realized I was just one woman. He threatened my child. I was scared. Terrorized beyond belief. He said he had friendship w/ cops and they asked his opinion of everything in SC. I knew he was crazy but here we were homeless alone scared. Two guys with knives. Bats and other things undescribed. Pure evil. He said I now take orders from him and says what he tells me. I was never like this before. Very strong. But no more. I was homeless with my family. This guy took over. He was in charge. When cops would show up I was told what to say. Became like it was normal. He hit me alot. Choked. Threatened thrown around very severely so I did what he said. I now knew it would only take him a second to hurt my family. He had secretly been telling police. Officer Greene and Sargent fitting things about me which were just pure evil things that I later learned from him setting me up deeper and deeper.

  3. Donna E Redcross 2 years ago
    Reply

    He would slowly break me down saying things like I know you show your daugter all about sex. Cops know how evil you are. Bad. Etc etc. Too painful to even remember exact words right now. I would beg him to stop saying those mean things about me. Soon I was his prisoner. I really had zero control over my own thoughts anymore. I just knew he was telling truth about cops always asking him about everyone and they need him free. It was obvious. He could kill my family in second and tell them I did it. He said I would be in jail. Then officer Tyson Greene shows up says get rid of him or he would take my daughter husband RV then arrest me.I asked what for. He said whatever I decide that day. Little did he know my family was this pure evil street guys prisoners. And that I was no longer able to decipher truth from fiction. I was told what to say and I did. I was no longerable to think. I was terrorized. So one day he hit me pretty hard in head and mouth. Broke my tooth cheek and nearly choked me to death. I woke up for second. Said I am sorry I was wrong. Then got keys to RV told family sit down be quiet hold on tight. I started RV drove away. His somewhere for night.

  4. Donna E Redcross 2 years ago
    Reply

    I parked somewhere. Scared to death yet so beatened down I was lost. Fed family they slept. Me barely. Woke up 6 am starving. Asked husband where was pizza. He stood up said FU I ate it all. Came after me daughter yelling Dad dont hit my Mom. He said Ill kill her. He was out of control which was why no facility would keep him. He would go after nurses hit them. VA had me get him one time. Escorted us from hospital. Hospital police. He hit nurse.

  5. Donna E Redcross 2 years ago
    Reply

    Daughter yelling dont hit my mom he saying ill kill her. I ran out side door he after me. Told daughter honey sit down this is over today. Its all you honey. All for you. You are all I care about. Sorry took me so long. I then ran in front drivers door locked it then side. Told husband go right there across street to church. Tell them bring you to Police Station then VA. He did. Grabbed daughter held her said its over honey. Mommy is awake. Its all for you from now on. We agreed and wanted to cuddle. We did tight and felt hope again. Laughed at each other. She said Mom all we need is each other. I held her for her life. We fell asleep. Woke no idea time and said we do need to go to SCPD and explain what happened then suddenly got real scared again. Had to be sure husband safely at VA started to drive towards there when that guy Nathan zoomed around corner. Yelling I need money. I want this that. I was again trapped. Almost made it. Almost. He blocked me

  6. Donna E Redcross 2 years ago
    Reply

    Told child do not let him in. She did. I was upset scared and in this spiral down fast. He came in took all electronics and all cash. I started toward PD and ran out of diesel. I was stuck in parking lot heading toward PD. No money. No nothing. So who rides up. Him. Says if your real real nice I might go get you some diesel. Daughter hungry. Begged him to feed her. He said only if you smile and treat me nice. I had to. So I did. Daughter and I being real nice laughing just so he will help us. She did like him though. He jumped up playfully but enough to scare me out of my wits. He tickeled me. We were rassling a bit laughing. Making sure to laugh. Waiting for burritos to be done. Then my nightmare reaches whole new level. He says they are looking for you. I told them you got rid of your husband.I look up 3-4 -5 copcars racing in every direction. Pull up. Sargent Richard Fitting runs fast at me yelling loudly. Where is husband. Nate says tell them truth. I am exasherbated. Cant breath. I suddenly realize he has done it. He is gonna hurt my baby. Im terrorized unable to think cant breath Fitting yelling and all I canhear is my baby screaming crying. Leave my Mom alone. A cop takes her aside per Fittings orders. Another cop takes Nate near my baby and talk to him. He says whatever. Fitting asking me where is he. I try to explain. Cant remember anything. But one thing. That here it is. It is coming true. All of it. Its all true. I am being arrested for whatever they decide on that day. They take my daughter. Arrest me for child neglect and elder abuse. I am now in NY. They adopted out my daughter and I am alone. Terrorized living nightmare.that I never created. Just now after 4 years. finally remembering all that happened and how sat in jail beaten beyind repair. Where is my baby. No way out. No legal help. Scared that Nate will make good and hurt her. Especially after hearing from my friend that he was looking for her. I had no way to defend myself. Court appointed lawyer said shut up and stood by the district attorney as they all including Judge talked about how horrible I was. I later learned Cops did listen to him and arrested me because of what he said. I never stood a chance did I. So I plead guilty to charges I didnt even understand. All I wanted to do was get out find my girl. 90 days later saw her 2 times then they cut me out of her life ever since. Officer Greene said he would arrestme take everything. He did
    To imagine that between him and Sargent Fittings need for Nates cooperation in his city to keep it quiet so he could do good. They stole my life. Turned me into a criminal on run. All I want is to talk to my baby dear God please help me before I die. Grandma has been cut off too. She just turned 80 and will go in severe pain because she never saw her Mara again. I put all this in Gods hands now. Sargent Fitting really needs to re visit his actions on that day. I take responsibility for being so lost and afraid but I finally was getting her out. He never listened to me. He locked me up. Made his file on me look like he wanted to get my family away from him. I begged him for help many times. I forgive him though for he was doing his best as was I. Difference I lost my life he climbed the ladder. To his heaven.

  7. Donna E Redcross 2 years ago
    Reply

    I am stuck in this hell which revisits me each and every day. Harder to handle each time. Family says I need pills to kill the pain i guess.Justice is a joke. Except Officer Greene has gotten arrested for being a criminal. Funny how things happen. Sergeant fitting now helps homeless families with your church. Maybe his concious got to him. As I did ask him through email. Why did he not help me. Why did he listen to a well known crazy man. Why couldnt he see something was happening to my family. I mean God we were a family homeless with a criminal he knew was dangerous. Why didnt he investigate further to helo us. He must have seen something wasnt right. Why would I just let this person take over my family. Take our income and feed us value menu food. Wish he would have had more training for this extremely life or death role he played in saving us. Instead he helped a madman dangerous criminal who was in complete control of us destroy us. I ask God for Justice becauze he is the only one who can save me now. I am still reliving this nightmare as it continues to unfold. I held it in side and cant understand why. Except that I may still be afraid that he will hurt my baby. This is for a very educated medical Dr to uncover. I can only do so much. These memories are so spiratic and unexpected. Its like a replay of your life that you see for first time. It was real and its what happened. What do I do now. Damage is done

    • Hillary Hale 2 months ago
      Reply

      Donna, I knew Nate and “sgt. dick fitting” and I know what you are talking about. Fittings ruined my life, got my father and I evicted. He was sick, he died a year and a half after we lost our home. Nate was a psychopath. I met him after becoming homeless. He had a bus that he said I could stay in. I saw the evil in his eyes, I also beat the shit out of him after I could take no more. I was lucky I got away from him. Reach out to me if you want.

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