Lamp Community History
Before Lamp Community opened its doors, a homeless person living with mental illness and other co-occurring disorders had almost no place to turn in Skid Row or anywhere in greater Los Angeles. At the time, homelessness was on the rise among people with disabilities nationwide, due in part to a combination of an economic downturn, a significant loss of affordable housing and a political and cultural shift that shuttered large mental institutions and forced mentally ill people onto the streets.
In 1985, longtime homeless advocate and service provider Mollie Lowery joined with local philanthropist Frank Rice to open the Los Angeles Men's Place (L.A.M.P.) as a drop-in center for this population. Within four months of opening, more than 80 men were stopping by the center each day. The Day Center, known today as the Frank Rice Access Center, offered support for basic needs such as food and clothing, showers, health screenings, case management and benefits advocacy. In 1987, the agency began serving both men and women and shortened its name to LAMP.
Within the first few years of LAMP’s operations, staff realized that in addition to being in need of assistance for basic needs, people living with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder needed a safe and nurturing environment in which to live. It was around this time that the agency embarked on an ambitious mission to acquire more property and expand services.
In 1988, Lamp obtained the property that would eventually become the LAMP Village, a 25,000-square-foot former warehouse that was transformed into a center for life-skill workshops, recovery support, case movement, advocacy services, and a residence with 99 beds. A few years later, Lamp developed a building now known as the LAMP Lodge into 50 apartments, each of them affordable, fully furnished and with a private bathroom and kitchen. As the area’s first provider of permanent supportive housing, the agency’s mission became increasingly focused on a Housing First philosophy. It was at this point that LAMP shifted its name and identity to the current Lamp Community.
In the first decade of the 21st century, Lamp experienced rapid growth in the scope and effectiveness of its programming. Having built a reputation as a trailblazer in permanent supportive housing and harm reduction, the agency began to partner with other agencies around Los Angeles that sought to address the area’s growing homeless population through systemic change. Partnerships and collaborations with other local affordable housing developers include Volunteers of America, Skid Row Housing Trust, the JWCH Institute, and A Community of Friends. Lamp will continue to be a pioneer in permanent support housing and remain unrelenting in its mission to end homelessness by improving the health and building the self-sufficiency of men and women living with mental illness in Los Angeles.
Photo: Lamp Community Founder Mollie Lowery, sixth from the left, and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, seventh from the left, attend the Village shelter dedication ceremony in 1990.