DC’s Central Union Mission spreads Christmas cheer to homeless residents

Tents of homeless people are seen at a railroad bridge in Washington, D.C., on April 2, 2020. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Central Union Mission in Northwest D.C. is making Christmas special for some of the District’s homeless population.

The men housed there are having a Christmas dinner and getting some much-needed gifts for the months ahead. “They are gifts of clothing, especially during the winter months, to make sure our guys are warm,” said Kenneth White, a chaplain with the mission.

White said that sweatshirts and coats are a big need. The gifts are meant to help make outdoor living safer.

The Christmas gift packs also offer encouragement on what can be a lonely day for isolated people on the street.

Some of the gift packs that were given out also consisted of toiletries for families, cleaning supplies and packs with personal protective equipment.

“To be able to give them gifts — even just little things like sweatshirts and thing like that — let them know that they are special,” White said.

Mission President & CEO Joe Mettimano said in a statement, “Despite the pandemic, we are making sure folks experiencing homelessness have a bit of hope and friendship this Christmas. Many thanks go to donors and our concerned community for helping us serve people while social distancing and adhering to CDC health protocols.”

The mission, located off Massachusetts Avenue Northwest near Union Station, is housing around 40 men this year for Christmas. Usually, 170 men can live in the building at any one time, but this year, they have had to scale back operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

White said that the 40 men will likely be housed there until the pandemic is over.

The men housed at the building on Massachusetts Avenue Northwest are part of the Transformation and Restoration Program, which is a drug addiction recovery program. There’s also a workforce development and education program.

“We teach them how to work and how to live on their own,” White said. “They can also get their GED.”

Central Union Mission is faith-based and claims to be the oldest nonprofit in the District, having been open for 137 years. It focuses primarily on fighting homelessness and hunger in the D.C. area.

“We are serving about 5,000 people per month. That number has gone up significantly because of [COVID-19] and all the people that have been laid off. They are coming to us for food assistance,” Mettimano told WTOP.

Earlier this year, Central Union Mission gave out about 700 frozen turkeys to needy families right before Thanksgiving.

Though volunteering with the mission has become complicated during the COVID-19 pandemic, they still accept monetary donations.

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