Community of Hope: Services for DC’s low-income & Homeless Families

IMG_6191, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

Community of Hope is located at 1413 Girard St., NW and “works to improve the health and quality of life of low-income, homeless, and underserved families and individuals in DC.” For those who are looking for an opportunity to volunteer, Community of Hope provides a truly needed service for the city. I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the facilities, by Cassandra Hetherington, 35, Volunteer Manager for Community of Hope (pictured above). Cassandra originally started out as a volunteer herself in 2001. She explained to me that “the thought of homeless children was too painful to bear” after seeing an ad in the City Paper.

The kids I saw are facing unbelievable obstacles but every single one of them was smiling and were having a great time with their tutors/mentors. This particular building has 20 apartments for emergency shelter and in general families stay for an average of 6-12 months. But the reason I am profiling this organization is because they have a real need for volunteers. There are three types of volunteers, you can volunteer in a computer lab overseeing and aiding the children who relish the time in front of the computers. Other volunteers serve as tutors to help the children with their studies. This is a crucial role as the students are often far behind in the skills of their age group. Finally, you can chose to become a mentor. Mentors, take children to movies, parks, museums, baseball games or whatever you are both interested in. Often these mentors are the only friends that some of the children have. Everyone probably remembers how tough kids can be, well, as homeless children, some of them are bullied mercilessly at school.

Cassandra recalled a story of one mentor who was a bit “nerdy” and she thought there was no way he would get along with these “tough” kids. Alas, there was one child who was 14 and very shy. So Cassandra paired the two up and it was great match. The 14 year old’s mother explained that this was the first friend he had ever had. They are still close today. Currently community of hope has 12 mentors and “they need a lot more.” Your commitment to volunteer/tutor/mentor is only 1-2 hours per week and the children’s ages range from 6- 16 years old.  You will have to submit to a background check and provide letters of reference. Please contact Karyn Cassella-Martin at [email protected] if you are interested in any of the volunteer positions.

Additionally the organization is short on gift cards that they distribute for the holidays. Please visit their web site here to make a contribution. Anyone who makes a contribution of $20 or more will receive a free PoP t-shirt at the upcoming happy hour at Red Derby. (Get a receipt!). After the jump see some photos of volunteers who are walking the walk.

A couple of volunteers in the Computer Lab.

Children enjoying the computer lab.

7 Comment

  • I know I may come off as being snooty here. But many of the poor people that live in DC, probably would be better off living somewhere much cheaper. Their quality of life would drastically improve. It is just not feasible to live here making 25,30,40K. Especially if you have kids. There are plenty places in the rest of the country where families could have a better quality of life.

  • You’re not snooty just sort of not understanding the full situation. Nearly all of these families are fourth and fifth generation Washingtonians with little education, thanks to a failing public school system, and no savings to move elsewhere. They have strong roots in this city, with family all over. Nothing is as easy as it sounds!

  • In some respects you’re right — people’s persistence in staying where they are, rather than moving to where they could get better jobs and cheaper homes, is economically inefficient. (This is one reason why many economists believe the high rate of home ownership in the U.S. is a bad thing.)

    On the other hand, even speaking strictly economically, there are reasons people stay put. Some poor people live here because their jobs are here. (Just because a job doesn’t pay enough or isn’t steady enough to lift one out of poverty doesn’t mean the person can leave it for the unknown.) They may live here because they depend on DC-resident family and friends for childcare. They may live here because they don’t have a car, so need the urban environment. They may live here because it’s hard to find a job and apartment in an unfamiliar place — especially when you don’t have references or a car.

    Add in non-economic factors: Not wanting to leave your family or friends; wanting to stay in your present church; not wanting to uproot your children; fright at new and unknown places.

  • What a weird conversation to start out with. This is wonderful, PoP, thanks for posting it–I can’t imagine being 14 and never having had a friend in my life… or being homeless, which seems plenty horrible enough, and then to be made fun of at school which would be the one constant in life. Being a mentor to these kids seems like a really good thing to do — or at the very least, shooting $20 bucks their way for gift cards. Do they need anything special for Xmas?

  • thanks PoP for putting this out there. i hope that logic works out for you nathan.

  • Wow, Cassandra Hetherington seems so nice and dateable. I guess this is a strange comment, but she seems so much cooler than the Wonderland weekend warriors. Oh my sad life~:(

  • Oh, good grief. PoP did an excellent piece highlighting this organization and all people are worried about are why the poor haven’t moved someplace else or how “dateable” the girl who runs the organization is? Backwards priorities.

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