In April, Capitol Hill Group Ministry (CHGM), the organization that has been working with neighbors, advocates and city agencies to end homelessness in the District for more than 50 years, changed its name to Everyone Home DC. The new name more closely aligns with the organization’s mission.
Executive Director Karen Cunningham said it was time to put home, rather than homelessness, at the center of everything they do. She said that there had been conversations about a name change even prior to her appointment as Executive Director in 2013.
“The previous name, Capitol Hill Group Ministry, made sense at the time of the founding 50 years ago, but does not give people a clear idea of what we are working to achieve today,” she explained. “You wouldn’t hear that and understand that we provide support to people experiencing homelessness.”
Founded by faith-based Capitol Hill organizations, over the past few decades the leadership of CHGM became more secular, and expanded its mandate to encompass the entire District.
“Our new name helps clarify those points of confusion, and really helps us tell our story in a more powerful way. The name is a mission as well as a name. Everyone Home DC means we believe everyone should have a home.”
The new name was introduced alongside a new logo and website, everyonehomedc.org. The changes were the result of a nine-month strategic planning process incorporating feedback from faith communities, donors and peer organizations.
The Mission Stays the Same
CHGM formed in the 1960s when a group of Capitol Hill churches began to collectively tackle the many challenges faced in the community. The organization officially incorporated in fall 1967. In its early days, the group conducted youth programs and advocated for racial and economic justice, resisting construction of the Southwest Freeway and protesting the war in Vietnam.
Over the next few years, the leadership of the organization diversified from clergy to include more lay community members. In the eighties, the organization began to focus on the needs of those experiencing homelessness, and has continued to do so ever since.
While the name has changed, the mission of Everyone Home DC has not, Cunningham said. The organization is committed to realizing a vision of the District as a place where everyone has access to a safe, comfortable and affordable home.
“We do everything from initial crisis intervention to permanent supportive housing, which is something that’s pretty special about our organization,” Cunningham said.
The organization’s Homelessness Prevention Program in particular has been extremely successful. The program addresses the immediate problems that put families at risk of losing unstable housing arrangements, and then connects families with longer-term services that enable permanent and stable housing.
“For our organization, 94% of the families that come to us at very imminent risk of homelessness can be stabilized so that they don’t have to go into shelter,” said Cunningham. In light of the program’s success, the DC Department of Human Services is working to build a similar program for single people.
The organization also offers a Family Rapid Re-housing Program to help families return to permanent housing and maintain it independently. Everyone Home DC’s Permanent Housing Program is designed for those with physical or mental health challenges, including substance use disorders, requiring long-term support.
Families in the Permanent Housing Program might be associated with Everyone Home DC for years, Cunningham said. “We have families who came to us when their kids were small and we’ve seen them grow up and go to college and graduate from college,” said Cunningham.
Programs also offer support such as case management, employment prep services, educational training or mental health services, connecting clients with non-profit groups as well as government agencies.
“We try to connect them to whatever it is they’re going to need to have longer term stability,” Cunningham said. “We meet them where they are. Everyone has a different story when they come in here.”
Everyone Home DC also operates four accessible shelter units, as well as the Shirley’s Place Day Center (1338 G St. SE), a drop-in day center where people access shower, laundry, restrooms, telephones, computers as well as lunch and social service referrals.
A Sense of Dignity
One of the most visible arms of Everyone Home DC is the Street Outreach team, a small group that ventures out into the neighborhood to meet chronically homeless neighbors and learns their needs and helps address them until they can be matched to a home. The team connects over 400 individuals annually to resources and benefits, even accompanying clients to appointments.
Street Outreach is supplemented by the Homeless Assistance Response Team (HART), an important program which engages volunteers to supplement street outreach work and check on homeless neighbors, especially in cold and hot weather.
“Our volunteers love it and they feel more connected to the community and it opens their eyes about who our homeless neighbors really are, dispelling a lot of myths that people have about them,” says Cunningham. “They are really welcomed by our homeless neighbors, who feel really touched that these strangers are willing to take their time in some of the worst weather to check on their welfare,” she adds. “It gives a sense of dignity to folks that these volunteers see them as people and neighbors worthy of their time and attention.”
Everyone Home DC also advocates for systems change, working to address the way formal and informal systems either support or undermine our collective efforts to end homelessness through The Way Home campaign, a group of more than 100 partner organizations, including churches and community groups. The campaign works to raise awareness on policy matters, budget and legislation, engaging those directly affected by homelessness directly with community members and policy makers, emphasizing the ending of homelessness as a priority.
Investing in Solutions
Last year, Everyone Home DC provided homelessness prevention services to almost 800 families and helped 11 chronically homeless people move into their own homes through the Street Outreach program.
The work of Everyone Home DC and similar organizations appears to be having an effect in the District. The most recent Point in Time (PIT) survey indicated that family homelessness in DC has decreased 11.8% and chronic homelessness by 13% since 2018. However, homelessness among single people has increased 2.8% in the same period.
Cunningham said that the PIT has limits, in part because it is done over a single night, meaning that weather and other factors could affect the count. It does, however, provide a general overview of the situation, indicating areas where programming has been successful.
“At the same time, the overall 2.8% increase in homeless singles indicates that we need to continue investing in housing solutions and need to examine the causes of inflow into homelessness among single adults in order to ensure that we continue to target our programs and resources effectively,” said Cunningham.
Everyone Plays a Part
That impact is augmented by the help of the community, Cunningham said. “It can mean everyone being responsible for looking out for the people in our neighborhood that we know are staying out on the street; or it might mean volunteering for or donating to an organization like ours. I hope everyone will let their elected officials know that ending homelessness is a priority for them.”
“I think that’s the biggest thing that I want people to know: everybody needs to play a part in ending homelessness in the District. We have a really amazing community of people with all kinds of skills and experience, and so we welcome people reaching out to us if they have something they might contribute,” Cunningham said.
How You Can Help
You can volunteer behind the scenes, work directly with community members with the HART Team or at Shirley’s Place, or help with special Back-to-School, Thanksgiving or Christmas events.
The signature Everyone Home DC fundraising event, ‘Sip and Savor’ takes place 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14. It’s an opportunity to experience tastings from more than 20 local restaurants, breweries, and beverage vendors while enjoying music and friendship. The organization seeks sponsors as well as volunteers interested in being on the host committee or helping out at the event.
Learn more about the work and journey of Everyone Home DC as well as ways to get involved by visiting their website at everyonehomedc.org.