A Disappointing Trophy for DC




December 16, 2016

Contact: Deborah Chambers

Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships and Community Outreach

Cell: 202-534-9965


A Disappointing Trophy for DC

The Way Out Comes from Employment


Washington, DC—This week’s U.S. Conference of Mayors survey that finds the District with the highest homeless rate of 32 major U.S. cities comes as no surprise to those of us who operate shelters here.  Nor are we surprised by the report that DC has the lowest proportion of unsheltered homeless people.  We’ve never had a greater demand for our services.  The city does have a hypothermia program, and in this cold weather, our 170-bed men’s shelter expands to house 190 with air mattresses on our day room floors.  We’re squeezing people in all over DC, but shelters and caring hearts are not enough.

The current demand for work may be the greatest since the Great Depression.  In Central Union Mission’s 132-year history of service to poor and homeless people, joining the District-wide effort to get men and women into jobs with reasonable wages has never been this urgent.  Our focus on work does not detract from our well-known spiritual foundation: In fact we find the two efforts to be mutually reinforcing.  A godly man or woman should be a better employee, and a saint without a job is just another name on the unemployment rolls–and likely homeless.

A Job Provides Stability

Like many of our fellow nonprofits, we have learned that a necessary step in restoring a man or woman to full, successful participation in society is having a job.  Our growing work programs must be just as productive as our spiritual programs.  That’s why we have work programs tailored for many needs.  In fact, we even have a Special Circumstances program for those who don’t fit into the other programs.  As we feed, clothe, shelter and provide free rehab, medical, dental and legal care for our Overnight Guests, we challenge them to enroll in our Ready2Succeed,  Work (for those employed but homeless), Work Therapy or Spiritual Transformation Programs.

Students in these programs are prepared with literacy, computer, GED, professional comportment and job skills.  Those who complete our basic program are guaranteed a job or specialized training.  If together we can’t find the right job for the student, the Mission itself will hire him to build up his resume and references.  They are paid at least minimum wage during this season of preparation and save up to 50% of their earnings for future rent payments.  These students live and eat at the Mission while they prepare for better paying jobs when they are ready.

Where We Need the Public’s Help

We can reduce our homeless numbers and compete—even with our own suburbs—for jobs, but we need our business community’s help.  Many of our graduates have past drug or criminal records.  With our training and mentoring, they have worked hard and deserve a second or–for some–a first-chance.  We need our business community to look past knee-jerk rejections of former offenders and to give them an opportunity to show what they can do.  Do you have any jobs available at your company?  We can refer you to many qualified formerly homeless employees.

Truly this is the time not for hand-outs but for “hands at work.”  While our Ready2Work men and women are cleaning your streets and our Mission Muffin crew is selling you delicious hand-made treats, they are preparing themselves for a successful future in the community.  All they need from you is a hand up.

—David Treadwell

David Treadwell is executive director of Central Union Mission. Central Union Mission is a faith-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit with its homeless shelter located at 65 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20001.  In addition to its emergency shelter program, the Mission operates rehabilitative and job training programs for men, a clothing and furniture distribution center, a retreat and recreation center with a camp for underprivileged children and a ministry to families and senior citizens. www.missiondc.org

Charity Navigator awarded Central Union Mission four out of a possible four stars, which indicates that Central Union MCharity Navigator Four Star Charityission adheres to good governance and other best practices that minimize the chance of unethical activities and consistently executes its mission in a fiscally responsible way.   Charity Navigator is America’s premier independent charity evaluator.




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