Bethesda Cares Celebrates 25 Years

A homeless man sleeps near the Bethesda Metro station escalators. (file photo)A number of Montgomery County social service organizations are celebrating 25-year or 30-year anniversaries, something Bethesda Cares director Sue Kirk said many in the field did not expect would be happening when they started out.

“There was optimism in the very beginning that homelessness was a blip on the screen and that one set of social workers would probably solve a lot of these ills and we’d be looking for other things to do by now,” Kirk said. “Then homelessness didn’t go away.”

On Sunday, April 13, Bethesda Cares — the homeless prevention nonprofit that works with many of the roughly 75 chronically homeless in Bethesda — will celebrate its 25th.

The event, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Positano Ristorante Italiano (4948 Fairmont Ave.), will serve as a celebration of the group’s work but also as a reminder of what’s left to be done.

“It’s a chance to look back over a lot of the changes that were made and the people who have been housed because we’re here,” Kirk said.

Bethesda Cares provides counseling, referrals, some clothing and food services to Bethesda’s homeless through its headquarters on the bottom of the county’s Woodmont Avenue parking garage. It is not a housing provider, though, which has Kirk and outreach specialist John Mendez trying to convince local policymakers to make room for chronically homeless in government-sponsored housing programs.

Kirk said that around 2004, Bethesda Cares fully embraced the “Housing First” approach toward decreasing homelessness, a newer concept that advocates placing the homeless in permanent housing right away instead of putting them through counseling, homeless shelters and temporary housing first.

Kirk and Mendez have said that Montgomery County housing providers have been too slow to embrace the Housing First model, and that too many government-sponsored housing spots go to the working poor who might have other resources.

In the future, Kirk hopes Bethesda Cares can add some more medical services for some of the most chronically homeless in the area. A speaker from the 100,000 Homes Campaign that seeks to survey and shelter those most vulnerable to living on the street will take part in the April 13 event.

For more information and for tickets or donations, visit the event website.

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