According to longtime Georgetown House Tour chairwoman Frida Burling, the annually anticipated House Tour has chosen to benefit the Georgetown Ministry Center “for what seems like forever.” Burling admits that it is an organization she “just adores,” and for whose services she is greatly appreciative.
The Georgetown Ministry Center is a small organization that has quietly been making a difference in the Georgetown community for years. They are a unique social service continuing to better the neighborhood they serve, with one main goal: to get the homeless off the streets.
“We’re not content with just helping people be comfortable,” said Gunther Stern, Executive Director of the Ministry. “We are looking for ways to get people off the street, to connect with them with access to resources and a real intent to help.”
Wearing many hats at the Ministry, from administrative work to in- house barber, Stern stands clear on that mission.
And his mission is a difficult one. Many of the clients that walk into the Ministry, on Wisconsin Avenue, have a mental illness they often aren’t comfortable admitting. The Ministry sees between 30 to 50 people a day, seven days a week. Their hours are currently 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., but Stern hopes to complete some construction on the facility soon to allow the Ministry to stay open until 5 p.m.
During their drop-in hours the Ministry offers counseling, information and referral services. Showers and laundry are also available to clients and typically run between eight and 10 a day.
In addition, the Ministry offers computers for client use. The computers turn off after an hour of use and clients are generally happy to share. “People will be using a computer, but will get up and willingly offer it to someone else if needed,” Stern said. “Its really neat to see.”
In an effort to keep with the Ministry’s intentional helping hand, a psychiatrist lends professional help to clients daily. In addition to seeing people inside the Ministry, he also reaches out to those on the streets and in the alleys of Georgetown.
The Ministry has a unique outreach in which the staff literally hits the streets in effort to reach the most vulnerable and withdrawn of the homeless, lending an ear and a hand or, if nothing else, preventing hyperthermia in the colder winter months.
The Ministry’s Winter Shelter is a safe haven for the homeless who face living on the streets in harsh weather conditions. The program runs from November to mid-April, rotating semi-monthly among member congregations in Georgetown.
And the ministry’s presence in Georgetown has not gone unnoted. The community has given back to the Ministry with events such as The Spirit of Georgetown, The Taste of Georgetown and Help the Homeless, which was a great success this past year.
Help the Homeless, a walk to end homelessness, was put on by Fannie Mae this past fall, and according to Stern raised $176,000 for the Ministry. Proceeds from the walk and other events fund the Ministry’s general operations.
As the Ministry strives to continue to improve the community and move the homeless off the streets, Stern’s long-term goal is much different from other organization’s. “If we didn’t have any homeless on the street, and we were put out of business by this time next year, we’d be happy,” Stern said.
Until then, Georgetown Ministry Center will work towards their goal of ensuring everyone has somewhere to call home, and the House Tour is a wonderful community event to show off the homes of those more fortunate, while not forgetting those who are down on their luck.