As one door closes, the saying goes, another door sometimes opens.
And with the closing of the Hermano Pedro Day Center on Friday, March 29, dozens of clients began seeking out the door of a nearby homeless day program for meals and help.
Wednesday, April 3 found that neighboring program, Thrive DC, bustling. Within 15 minutes of opening for breakfast, 84 clients were on hand, up from the typical morning crowd of between 50 and 60 visitors.
Staffers at Thrive DC had already been coping with an increase of clients before Hermano Pedro closed. Now, in spite of weeks of preparation, they remain concerned about meeting the additional needs.
“While we will work hard to accommodate the increase, it is sure to stretch our resources to dangerous limits, which could ultimately jeopardize the longevity, effectiveness and efficiency of all of our services,” said Alicia Horton, Thrive DC’s executive director.
The closing of Hermano Pedro came as no surprise. Due to the ending of a five-year, $2 million contract with the city Department of Mental Health (DMH), Hermano Pedro was set to close twice, once in August 2012 and again in November.
[Read more: Hermano Pedro prepares to close]
Both dates were extended due to weather circumstances, but in anticipation of Hermano Pedro’s final day, the executive teams of Thrive and Hermano Pedro began in November to transfer Hermano Pedro’s caseload to Thrive.
According to Horton, Thrive expects to see 10-15 percent more clients now. She believes the additional clients will push Thrive to full capacity.
Thrive coordinators and volunteers said the full effect of Hermano Pedro’s termination has not yet been seen, and it will not be clear until the end of the month. Typically, such programs serve a smaller number of clients in the beginning of the month because that’s when social security and welfare checks are issued so clients have the funds to buy their meals. The numbers increase as the month goes on.
Horton and others at Thrive DC have made efforts to prepare for the flood of clients. Aside from the meetings to accommodate Hermano Pedro clients, Horton said she has worked to bridge the expected gap in services, but she says she continues to worry that without help from the city she will not be able to stretch resources enough to meet all the needs.
“Thrive DC will continue to advocate to stabilize the offering of consistent and effective services in this community in order to insure that our most vulnerable members have access to the kind of programming that can help them regain their stability and self sufficiency,” Horton said.
Carl Smith-Hunnicut, Thrive’s volunteer and community relations coordinator said more volunteers and more space might be needed in the future, but that so far the team at Thrive has not had to turn anyone away.
Ultimately, Horton believes that Thrive DC will grow to accommodate those in need by increasing the organization’s offerings in many ways.
“With the closing of Hermano Pedro, Thrive DC’s goals are to expand our services to include more operational hours, more therapeutic programming, more employment training and assistance and more case managers as we work to accomplish our mission of ending and preventing homelessness.”