By Pinkston News Service
WASHINGTON, DC—(Pinkston News Service)—Despite being one of the country’s wealthiest metropolitan areas, our nation’s capital has one of the largest homeless populations in the country. And for ordained pastor Joseph Mettimano, that is not okay. As the head of Central Union Mission, the oldest private social services agency in Washington, D.C., Mettimano says what makes his organization unique is its holistic approach. “We are not just trying to put a Band-Aid on homelessness and urban poverty, we’re actually trying to solve it.” He discussed the issue last week on an episode of the Coffee with Closers podcast.
To tackle the homelessness crisis, Central Union Mission takes a “wraparound” approach that extends beyond providing basic food and shelter.
“We actually are trying to come side by side with some of these guys who really want to get off of the street and figure out, okay, what does this man need to be able to leave here in a year and a half and be able to live independently? So, we are addressing things like addictions, psychological health, job training and education. There’s a variety of things that we do,” said Mettimano.
Central Union Mission (missiondc.org) started out as a homeless shelter for Civil War veterans. Today, the faith-based nonprofit has evolved considerably.
In addition to operating a homeless shelter that provides beds for up to 170 men each night, the organization also serves underserved women, children, families and veterans living in Greater Washington with medical, dental, psychiatric, job training and other support services. They also have a food pantry which serves approximately 5,000 people a month and a summer camp for underserved children. And while Central Union Mission’s greatest area of service impact is the District, their services are open to anyone.
Mettimano also discussed some of the ways Central Union Mission was able to carry out its mission during the COVID-19 pandemic while not having a single Covid case in its facility for two years until the Omicron variant came along.
They were among the first shelters in Washington, D.C. to use touchless thermometers and even installed a walk-through sanitization portal that uses Far-UVC light that inactivates bacteria and viruses on clothing and goods in seconds. It was donated to the Mission in May of 2020 by Washington Capitals star center Lars Eller. And, in a continued show of support from the community, last month Passport Auto Group donated a new truck to help the organization with its job training program.
As for the challenges that persist for the homeless and underserved, Mettimano cites “predatory” drugs, like synthetic marijuana, mental and emotional health struggles and COVID-19 job loss. “A lot of people lost their jobs because of the pandemic, and most of the people who lost their jobs are on that lower end of the economic spectrum. And if just 10% of those people who lost their jobs end up getting evicted, there’s going to be an explosion in homelessness here in the nation’s capital.” In response to the ongoing impact of COVID, the Mission just introduced the Comprehensive Family Resource Center, which is exponentially expanding the availability of job training and placement and other wraparound services.
Mettimano was called to serve others at a young age when he saw his late mother, who was also homeless at one point, give money to a homeless man. When he asked her why she did that, her response was simple. “You know, Joey, at some point in life, everybody needs help.”