The long-anticipated groundbreaking ceremony for Central Union Mission, a program that has been around for 126 years, finally took place on Monday, May 7.
The men’s shelter, which will be housed at the historic Gales School at 65 Massachusetts Ave. NW, is set to open in the spring of 2013. It will be relocating from its home on R and 14th Street NW when the $12 million renovation of the Gales School is complete.
The tone of the ceremony was one of extreme gratitude and relief. Expressions of appreciation were offered, along with a musical performance. Easels displayed floorplans of the new facility. Aaron Davis shared his experiences as a former resident of Central Union Mission who went back to school and is working toward his doctoral degree.
David Treadwell, executive director of Central Union Mission, said he was excited to be moving the shelter back downtown after 30 years.
“This is an exciting time for us, but it’s not about a building,” Treadwell said. “We are bringing ministry and services back to the heart of Washington where we belong.”
Central Union Mission is the district’s oldest social services agency, and received help from 2,100 volunteers this year. It is not using government funds to build or operate the new building, and the rebuilding will be overseen by Forrester Construction.
The Gales School had been “sitting there for decades,” Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton told the crowd. “A city is reborn when you recreate its uses.”
Councilman Jim Graham added that the school, which was built in 1881, represents “the dedication to doing the right thing by the people of the District of Columbia.” He commended the effort of resurrecting a low-barrier shelter.
Central Union Mission will pay rent of $1 per year for use of the building.
“We are going to be ready to meet the needs of the people of Washington,” Treadwell promised.