Miriam’s Kitchen got its start in 1983, serving simple breakfasts of eggs, grits, toast and coffee to a handful of local homeless people. Thirty years later, the Foggy Bottom nonprofit has grown exponentially, offering not only meals but a range of therapeutic programs that assist guests beyond the dining room.
To celebrate this landmark month, Miriam’s has been hosting a series of that offer thoughts and inspiration.
One of them, a Housing First forum, focused on the idea that ending chronic homelessness is possible.
Speaking to a packed house, Linda Kaufman, an organizer for the 100,000 Homes Campaign, spoke about how permanent supportive housing programs are helping restore stability and dignity to the lives of chronically homeless people. Studies have shown that the programs actually cost less than maintaining indigent people in an endless cycle of emergency rooms, shelters, mental wards and jails.
While many traditional programs require homeless people to become clean and sober before they get housing, Housing First programs are guided by the philosophy that housing enables people to become clean and sober, Kaufman explained. A Housing First program participant named Waldon who also spoke credited his five years of sobriety to the help he received. And he spoke with pride about running his 9th marathon this month.
By the end of the event, hundreds of guests rallied in support and signed over 400 hundred postcards asking D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and mayoral candidates to increase funding for the DC Department of Human Services Permanent Supportive Housing Program.
The event closed with last words from Kaufman:
“Life is a series of approximations,” she noted. “There is no telling why a person became homeless and who might become homeless in the future, but Housing First is a means of harm reduction in communities. Put simply, we live in a society where no one should die homeless—we have the resources to make it happen, they simply need to be allocated in a more efficient way. “
In addition to the forum, Miriam’s Dignity|Belonging|Change art exhibition opened at Gallery 102, a student-run art space located at George Washington University’s Smith Hall of Art. The exhibit offers further deep insights into the struggles and gifts of homeless men and women. The salon-style exhibition would not have been possible without Miriam’s Studio—a unique therapeutic space geared toward offering participants an opportunity to develop confidence and positive relationships through group activities such as art therapy, creative writing, and yoga. The show, which features work in a variety of media; including, painting, jewelry, poetry, photography, spoken word and sculpture, will remain on display until Oct. 25. The gallery is located at 801 22nd Street NW.