The Central Union Mission, which has aided homeless, unemployed, alcoholic and drug-addicted men and women in the District for nearly one hundred years, dedicated its new location on 14th Street NW Saturday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and reminiscences of its accomplishments.
Mission Director Robert R. Rich told about 75 persons gathered in the auditorium of a former automobile showroom at 1631 14th St. NW that, since it was founded in 1884, "the mission has been a vital extension of the Lord's arm, reaching out to people in life crisis situations."
The mission provides meals, lodging and church services to about 70 transient men each day. Another 30 men participate in a 90-day alcoholism and drug abuse recovery program and are required to work at the mission, accept counseling and attend worship services. The mission also sponsors Dial-A-Teen, a phone counseling service that aids distressed teen-agers.
Rich said that most people who come through the mission doors have no sense of self-worth and think nobody cares about them. The mission does much more than tend to the physical needs of a man, he said, through its religious and counseling activities.
Larry Krial, a former prisoner and drug addict who now works on the mission's kitchen staff, said that were it not for Central Union Mission he would still "be out there in the dirt."
"I have been in all kinds of bad places. I spent five years in prison. I was so hooked on PCP phencyclidine when I got here that I couldn't see straight," Krial said. "I had lost all my values and my friends . . . . These people here are really sincere. This is a very beautiful place."
The mission moved to 14th Street last year. It was uprooted from its residence at 624 Indiana Ave. NW, where it had been for 90 years, to make way for the revitalization efforts of the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp.
Mission Board President J. F. Crowell, who has worked with the mission 40 years, said there was a lot of "blood, sweat and tears" involved with getting into the new building, which had been vacant since 1968.
"We are a positive element in the restoration of the 14th Street corridor," Crowell said, and because the mission is funded by private donations, "the cost does not fall on the taxpayer."
Rich's wife, Betty, who serves as a trouble-shooter at the mission, said the view from her window gives a clear picture of the enormous amount of work to be done on 14th Street.
"All day long I see the young girls who support themselves through prostitution," she said. "I see the men who spend their days passing around their brown paper bags and drinking their lives away." Its new location, she said will enable the mission to provide services in an area that needs them.
Crowell, as he cut the ribbon, declared: "The mission is dedicated to the glory of God and to the service of humanity."