Shelter’s Response to Increase in Homelessness




December 6, 2016

Contact: Deborah Chambers

Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships and Community Outreach

Cell: 202-534-9965

Shelter’s Response to Increase in Homelessness 


An ID: A Tough Threshold but the First Step to Success

It’s no surprise to shelters like Central Union Mission that homelessness increased by 14% in the District last year, as reported by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. No wonder our mayor is looking at more stringent identification as a method for reducing the burden on the city. While proper IDs may deter some from coming here, the homeless population will always go where it can find the best deal, and right now, that’s DC.

Realistically, however, it’s not about whether Virginia and Maryland are redirecting their poor to the District or whether the District is just better at counting homeless families. The problem is that over 8,000 people in our area were homeless on a January night.  Ironically, we’ve found that although most of our Overnight Guests are DC natives, the majority of our donors are from Northern Virginia and Maryland, and their private donations fully support
Central Union Mission. With our government, nonprofits, places of worship and businesses all pulling together we can help the people that end up here to find the best long-term solution: employment—which starts with a current ID.

Hard to Get

You might assume that a driver’s license is a universal part of modern life, but if you’ve never had a chance to drive or haven’t looked for a job, getting an ID can be complicated.  Most city shelters have always required clients to show their IDs to receive service, but Central Union Mission allows Overnight Guests to stay with us for three days while we help them with the paperwork, fees and transportation required to get their IDs.

At Central Union Mission, the oldest private social service agency in DC, we have a record of 130+ years of rehabilitation through faith, a model that still works.  However, we have learned that a wonderfully cleaned-up man without skills or motivation is still unemployed and most likely homeless.  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 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 who already have jobs but are homeless), Work Therapy or Spiritual Transformation Programs. (If they refuse, their stay is limited
after their initial 30 days of emergency shelter.)

Students in these programs are prepared with literacy, computer, GED, professional comportment and job skills. Those who complete the 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 and save up to 50% of their earnings for future rent payments, while living and eating at the Mission for free.

Deserving a Chance

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 O. Treadwell is executive director for Central Union Mission, which provides a homeless shelter for men as well as food, services and programs for women, families, children and seniors.

David O. Treadwell is executive director for Central Union Mission, which provides a homeless shelter for men as well as food, services and programs for women, families, children and seniors. 


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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.

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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