In 2004 the Mayor of D.C., Tony Williams, produced a bold plan to end homelessness in 10 years. Ten years later in 2014 we had as many homeless people on the street as in 2004, maybe more. We have watched over the years as the numbers ebbed and flowed, but a substantive solution to homelessness has yet to reveal itself.
This year, 2017, is the 30th anniversary of Georgetown Ministry Center. We started in the small space under the entrance to Grace Church in 1987. We have been expanding ever since, thanks to generous support from our community. First we crept into the Sunday school room. Each Friday the lone Lutheran volunteer and I would push our desks into a corner to make room for Sunday school. Eventually we were given the entire space. Still in those days we were not able to offer the bathroom to any of our guests; they had to find a public bathroom nearby. We offered basic case management to people who had fallen through the cracks of the mental health system.
In 2001 we began to look for a bigger space in the community. We had outgrown our existing space at Grace Church. We hoped for space that would allow us to provide bathrooms and showers along with case management. In the end, a novel idea to expand into the basement and mechanical room in the rectory of Grace Church prevailed. We moved into our new digs in the fall of 2003. We had a shower, laundry facilities and three bathrooms.
With the improved facilities there was increased demand. By 2010 we were thinking about ways to improve our space again. We realized we were not going to find another space for our program but maybe we could find space for our administrative staff nearby, leaving more room for programs.
With some donated professional services from HOK Architects, we came up with a plan to open up the Center so that it really began to feel like a place for our guests to belong. Meanwhile, administrative staff moved to nearby office space. The Center was now so nice and welcoming that our numbers increased and people who came in, stayed. We were often standing room only.
This year a generous donor is helping us overhaul the space once more. An ingenious idea will move the mechanical room into another area of the rectory, opening up space in our Center. Moving the reception area to one side we will have more unobstructed space for our guests, 2 washers, 2 dryers and a more efficient hot water system for the showers – all desperately needed. We hope to open this new space in the fall at the conclusion of our 30 year anniversary celebration.While I continue to have hope that we will put an end to homelessness in my lifetime, at least for the most vulnerable homeless folks with mental illness there will be a need for gentle, respectful services.
Join us in marking 30 years of service in the community by helping us meet the match! Between now and May 31, we are once again working to raise $10,000 to receive a matching $10,000 grant from the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation. You can donate toward this goal by clicking here.