Central Union Mission is a nonprofit that provides shelter, food and education for the homeless and low-income throughout the D.C. area. Founded in 1884, it is the city’s oldest social service agency, beginning as an emergency shelter for homeless men, namely Civil War veterans.
Today, Central Union Mission’s free programs reach out to homeless men as well as underprivileged women, children, seniors, veterans and Hispanic families. Aside from emergency shelter, it distributes groceries and furniture and serves three meals a day. There are also ESL and GED prep classes, and medical and legal consultations and services.
Mission’s 12- to 18-month Spiritual Transformation rehabilitation program combines biblical counseling and study with drug testing and work therapy, aiming to help overcome addictions and similar issues.
“Spirituality gives you hope, and a lot of these people have lost hope,” said Deborah Chambers, director of communications and outreach. “We do this work to show the love of God, and if someone else wants to know him, we provide opportunities for that.”
Central Union Mission also owns Camp Bennett, a 220-acre retreat and conference center in Brookeville, Md., which offers a summer camp for lowincome children, as well as recreational facilities for the community. Aside from the main facility, which houses the shelter, there are two additional locations in D.C.: their food distribution center and Mount Gilead Baptist Church.
However, Mission is quickly outgrowing it 82 bed shelter.
“We need more beds, we’re full every night,” said Chambers. “It’s our toughest challenge with the shelter.”
However, they are working to relocate to a new facility that will be able to shelter 200 men.