On Monday nights, First Church overflows with laughter, the sounds of recent movies, and the smell of pizza as dozens of the city’s most vulnerable people enter for a time of respite and connection to others.
These guests are young people who are either homeless or in unstable housing situations. At First Church they find the Downtown Drop-In Center, which many of these young people now refer to simply as “Pizza Monday.”
First Church operates the Downtown Drop-In Center in partnership with Sasha Bruce Youthwork, a local youth homeless services agency. The Center is open from 6 – 9 pm each Monday and provides food, games, a movie, and HIV screening. In addition, guests may take advantage of case management services to gain access to a range of resources, including employment training and placement, mental and physical healthcare, substance abuse treatment, and housing access.
Perhaps most importantly, the Downtown Drop-In Center provides guests an opportunity to feel at home for a while, talk to volunteers from First Church or Stand Up for Kids about matters important, banal, or nothing at all, and experience the loving embrace of the entire congregation.
The drop-in center was recently featured in Street Sense – find the article here.
Background on the Downtown Drop-In Center
First Church launched the Drop-In Center in August 2016 in partnership with Sasha Bruce Youthwork and the Downtown Business Improvement District (BID), which provided partial funding for the pilot program. In doing so, First Church draws on its long-term engagement in issues of homelessness, which included serving as the downtown homeless service center until the church facility was demolished in preparation for construction of the current church facility, which opened in 2011. First Church was also the 1979 birthplace of the Dinner Program for Homeless Women, which has grown into Thrive DC and provides a range of services to homeless individuals.
Since it opened, 20 – 70 people have visited the Drop-In Center each week. In addition to space, staffing, and money, First Church also provides volunteers for the center. The church also hosts an annual Thanksgiving dinner for the Center, provides food for snack packs that Center guests can take with them, and other support.