District Shelters Lend Helping Hand During Holiday Season

Homeless shelters are gearing up for some holiday cheer as they fill to capacity with only two weeks left until Christmas.

Thousands of people in the District are homeless this winter and are searching for a warm meal and place to stay during the winter’s cold days and nights. A staggering 6,000 homeless people in the District are currently homeless, according to the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness. The Central Union Mission is a beacon of hope for those individuals and families experiencing homelessness during the holiday season.

The Mission, located at 1250 R St., NW , has served needy families in Washington, DC since 1884. According to their website, the 124-year old organization is still dedicated to their vision to “transform the lives of the people we serve into Godly, productive members of society by meeting their physical, spiritual, and emotional needs.”

“We have a Christmas program, dinner will be served at 5 p.m. for overnight guests and we may have some gifts for them this year,” said Philip Ford, The Mission’s Executive Assistant.

The shelter staff is dedicated to getting into the true spirit of Christmas, “we wear hats and decorate the chapel,” Ford said.

Other shelters in the city are offering an overabundance of Christmas services.

The 25-bed Calvary Women’s Shelter located at 928 5th St., NW , is award winning, chosen as the Charity of the Year by the Districts of Columbia Bar and a winner of the 1999 Award of Excellence for Outstanding Community Service by the National Association of Social Workers Metro Chapter.

The nationally recognized shelter is a place of transition for single women. According to the shelter’s web site, their mission is “to provide homeless women with a place to live and basic services and to help educate and empower women for independent living.

This Christmas the shelter will distribute gifts and serve a morning breakfast and dinner to its residents.

“Volunteer groups and individuals from the Jewish community come in to do arts and crafts as well,” Program Director Robin Aycock said.

The shelter operates year-round providing life skills, mental heath services and case management ensuring personally tailored support for each resident.

Washington, DC tourist Kristy Baker, 24, and adult caregiver plans on volunteering at a soup kitchen this season.

“I really want to make a difference, I think the homeless are often forgotten,” Baker said.”I want them to know that there’s young people out there who care and aren’t just about receiving but also giving back to communities in need.”

Andy David, 27, has been homeless for the past five years traveling from state to state with the little funds he earns from temporary odd jobs.

“I really appreciate shelters, the world can be a harsh place to live in,” David said. “If it weren’t for holiday programs I’d be on the streets for Christmas. I haven’t talked to my family in years.”

According to The National Alliance to End Homelessness, there’s an estimated 744,313 homeless people living in the United States. Washington is noted as having one of the largest populations of homeless people in the country.

However, those in the District who are in need of a holiday meal and don’t have a temporary residence are able to get these things from one of the city’s largest charities, Martha’s Table .

The charity has several developmental programs for low-income families and youth, as well as a mobile soup kitchen, McKenna’s Wagon. The kitchen operates seven days a week feeding nearly 1,200 people with donated goods from local stores, bakeries and private groups between 5:30 and 6:45 p.m. daily at various locations throughout the city.

During Thanksgiving, McKenna’s Wagon served 1,287 hearty meals to the needy thanks to volunteers and local donors. This past year the non-profit organization served over 558,000 meals, including 800 daily meals and snacks.

From Dec. 20 to Dec. 21 Martha’s Table has pledged to provide the homeless with a holiday dinner, preparing to serve nearly 750 hot meals.

For more information on how to get involved in charitable programs this holiday season contact your local shelters or community centers.