Founded in 1988, Bethesda Cares is a community outreach program for people living unsheltered, and for people in homes, at severe risk of losing them. We seek to place people in permanent, supportive housing; to ease life on the street during that process; and to prevent low-income tenants in crisis from eviction and possible homelessness:
For some of our clients, homelessness is a difficult but transitory period that they ultimately resolve on their own, by landing needed work, or finding friends or family to help them through. Other clients, though, have been on the street for years. Some feel deeply detached from—abandoned by–society. These clients may resist help, despite sorely needing it. With them, we use a very long process of slowly, methodically building trust, then working with partners to ultimately place these clients into homes.
Regardless of whether their homelessness is temporary or chronic, our clients need food, a mailing address, psychiatric help, or maybe just a place have a cup of coffee, where they know they will not be told to “move along.” We offer a daily meal program; a Drop-In Center; a Clothing Closet; and a shower program. Our psychiatrist offers group and individual counseling, as well as prescription assistance.
Take a look at some of our year-end 2016 statistics:
· Together, we served 15,251 hot meals to the hungry (yes, really, 15,251!);
· We provided clothing for 232 people (plus countless hats, socks, gloves and the like);
· We enabled 117 people to speak directly with a psychiatrist;
· We offered a warm, comfortable space in which nearly a thousand people came to sit, have a cup of coffee and read a newspaper without being told to “move along,” for a total of 7,866 visits.
Still other Bethesda Cares clients are in homes, but face financial crises, teetering on the brink of losing their homes. Maybe a wager-earner lost a job, and that family cannot pay both their utilities and rent. Rather than choosing between heat and rent, or food and rent, they can turn to us for short-term financial assistance in the form of grants sent directly to landlords or utilities. That safety net can mean the difference between staying housed, or being evicted and living on the street. In 2016, we issued 518 grants, which helped 1,484 people avoid eviction. Just under half of that 1,484 were children.
We (Heart) Our Volunteers and Our Partners!
We are able to provide all these services with a small staff because of the community’s involvement. We have nearly 600 volunteers who cook and serve food, sort clothes, provide medical care, help in the shower program and in the office. Volunteers host toiletry, sock and underwear drives, help with fund-raisers and provide in-kind donations. In 2016, our volunteers donated over 29,000 hours of time to us!
We also work closely with area organizations of all kinds, including congregations, schools, many parts of our government, and with our rescue services. These open, working relationships help us provide and maintain a true community approach to supporting our community’s most vulnerable.
Daily, we prove that Bethesda truly cares.