WASHINGTON, DC – Beneath the shadows of DC’s treasured monuments passersby see a striking contrast – a world of homelessness.
On any given night, roughly 6,500 people are living in our nation’s capital without a permanent place to call home, according to a recent report from the mayor’s office.
At Central Union Mission, 170 of them find rest, not only for their bodies but for their souls as well.
“The gospel is faithfully presented here every day, not only in the shelter but in the family ministry center. The cross of Christ is meeting the needs of the homeless and hurting in this city,” Central Union Mission chair Dee Dee Collins told CBN News.
The team here gives the homeless more than just a meal and bed. They provide folks hope and help for transitioning out of their situation.
“We have a restoration and transformation program that’s biblically based…we layer that with cognitive programming for those that have addiction issues. We also have education and workforce development opportunities,” said Rev. Deborah J. Chambers, the mission’s VP of development and partnerships.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, veterans are among those nationwide who experience homelessness at higher rates.
But here in DC, that number is down 27%, perhaps due in part to a city-wide effort to combat homelessness.
When it comes to the mission, Collins says caring for our nation’s vets is in their history.
“It’s significant, the mission was founded 135 years ago and its principle purpose at that time was to serve the homeless veterans after the Civil War,” she explained.
They remain faithful to that mission, currently serving about 27 veterans.
“I think the one thing we can all agree on is our veterans deserve to have a place to live after they’ve served…one of the things we have here is a veteran’s suite, where we have it decked out for the veterans and try to afford them a sense of dignity while living in a shelter,” said Chambers.
And then there’s the food.
“Breaking bread with someone, just having a meal with someone, just breaks down a lot of barriers,” Chef Rock Harper, a former Central Union Mission chef, told CBN News.
In the kitchen, Union Mission chefs led by Chef Mo work hard to provide healthy meals three times a day, because here, serving is more than just about the food.
Harper, a winner of Hell’s Kitchen on Fox, says each time he helps in this kitchen, it’s like winning all over again.
“Bigger than the food. We are acknowledging people. We are saying, I see you. I want to be here for you. If you are aware of that connection I think it makes you a better chef,” Harper reflected.
And some of the country’s best chefs come together each year for HeART and Sole – a mission sponsored event raising enough money for a million meals and more.
From the kitchen to the boardroom, the team here say they follow a singular goal – do all in the name of the Lord.
“You can give people a bed, you can give people food, shower, clothing, but when you give them the hope of Jesus Christ, that can turn a life around,” said Collins.
In the end, they say, it’s the food for the soul that matters most.