In the 1980s and early '90s, civil wars in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua drove significant numbers of Central Americans to the U.S. In Washington, D.C., alone, the Latino population increased by 170% in just ten years.
Seeing a burgeoning population of recently arrived Central American immigrants experiencing homelessness in Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights at the time, a small group of parishioners from St. Margaret's Episcopal Church began a volunteer-led outreach program. We started in January 1990 by serving rice and beans twice a week in our parish hall. Word quickly spread, and it wasn't long before the program reached beyond the Latino population to all in need.
The program later expanded to include social services, ESL classes, Spanish, music, drama, and workshops on healthcare and legal rights topics. Volunteer leadership gave way to professional staff, and some who arrived as clients put their skills to work and ultimately became employees.
Today--some thirty years later--Washington, D.C., has a housing crisis, and too many residents are one paycheck away from experiencing homelessness. That's today.
Grounded in community and sustained by hope, Charlie's Place offers a warm and calm space where people experiencing homelessness get basic needs met while also finding the resources they need to empower themselves and better their lives.