A New Home for Central Union Mission

Domonic needed a ticket out of a life filled with violence and drug addiction. He was so driven to change that he left his home in South Carolina and ended up in Washington, D.C., searching for a shelter – searching for hope.

“I came into the Central Union Mission in January 2011 a broken man,” Domonic said. “I was 24 years old, confused, frustrated and lost.”

Through the mission’s Spiritual Transformation Program, he turned his life around. “I have learned that I don’t have to be high to enjoy life. I have experienced what it feels like to have people genuinely care about me and my circumstances,” he said.

Domonic is one of dozens of men whose lives have been radically changed by the assistance and services received at the mission. The Central Union Mission daily fulfills its purpose of “renovating lives, restoring hope.”

“We are compelled by our faith to serve the poor, but we never compel faith on the part of anyone to receive our services,” said David Treadwell, Executive Director of the mission.

The mission staffers follow their Christian duty to care for the destitute, but they offer more than merely a warm meal and a dry bed; they offer the tools to transform the mind, body and soul of any man who voluntarily seeks their assistance, according to Treadwell.

Job and computer training, literacy training and GED instruction take care of mental needs. The medical, dental, and drug treatment services take care of physical needs. And the Spiritual Transformation Program and chapel services take care of spiritual needs.

After operating on 14th Street NW for many years, Central Union Mission is almost ready to open at its new location at the old Gales School building at 65 Massachusetts Avenue, NW. The goal is to have open doors by Veteran’s day, Nov. 11.

“This project goes back to 2000 when we first noticed the gentrification of 14th Street. By 2003, in earnest, we were pursuing a new location to build a state-of-the-art facility, and yet not get too far from downtown,” Treadwell said.

Jeffrey Schonberger of Alturas Real Estate Interests, the new owner of the previous mission facility, has already begun renovating the building into unique, fashionable condos, according to the Washington Post article, “Central Union Mission’s Move Means New Condos on 14th Street NW.”

Working with the D.C. City Council and Mayor Fenty’s office, mission supporters came up with the Gales School proposal. Treadwell described the compromise as: “A marriage somewhat made in heaven.”

After owning two different major facilities and now leasing the Gales School, Treadwell is concerned that the mission may never be able to own property again. The mission has spent more than $14 million in reconstructing the 130 year old building and will operate solely on its own funding.

“The biggest thing for me is that we have been able to work with the city, while not receiving city finances, in order to serve the people that we feel God has called us to serve,” Treadwell said.

In one year alone, 179,597 nourishing meals were served to men, women, families, and children struggling with hunger and food security, and 831 individuals received professional services such as physicals, eye exams, testing, treatment and a wide range of medical and legal support, according to the Central Union Mission’s final report for fiscal year 2012.

These statistics represent real people with real stories. Many lives that came in contact with the mission have been forever changed – lives like Ryan’s.

“I came to Central Union Mission for an ‘oil change’—some meals, a bed—just until I could find a new job,” Ryan said. But he found so much more. Not only did he get clean and change the trajectory of his life, he also began giving back to the community by helping lead the Men’s Ministry and eventually was promoted to executive assistant to the executive director.

The mission’s move has not been an easy process. Restoring the old walls was an extreme challenge because they suffered much damage during the time the Gales School had no roof, said Treadwell. The construction was delayed by months.

When completed, the 35,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facility will be handicap accessible on all four floors and able to sleep 150 men each night.

The First floor will include a kitchen twice the size of their previous one, and a Multi-Purpose Room with 200 seats for dining and for chapel.

The second floor includes three large rooms for overnight guests, as well as the lawyer, doctor, and dentist offices, and classrooms.

Issues |Gentrification|Shelters

Region |Washington DC

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