The Washington Urban League and the Luther Place Memorial Church, in a move to expand health care for the homeless aged, opened a senior citizens center last week with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Northwest.
The Washington Urban League-Luther Place Senior Center, at 1226 Vermont Ave. NW, will provide meal services, on-site case management, recreation and socialization therapy, computerized housing information and mental health counseling.
Money for the project was provided by the D.C. Office on Aging.
The center is the newest addition to what has come to be known as the "N Street Village," a row of shelters and health care facilities for homeless people operated by Luther Place Shelter Ministries.
"We're really working to reach three levels of need," said Jeri Schultz, Women's Shelter administrator for Luther Place Shelter Ministries. "One is just an opportunity for the elderly homeless to have a place to come and be involved in social activity." Others are medical care and housing.
Schultz said 15 people are being served by the center, with that number expected to rise to 50 people a day within the next few weeks.
"This is the first center of its kind in the city," said Brenda Turner, director of Aging Services for the Washington Urban League.
"An estimated 11.6 percent of the homeless in Washington are over the age of 65," she said, citing a federal study published last year.
"That translates to around 70,000 people."
Turner said that when Urban League officials received $80,000 to start the center, they approached Luther Place Shelter Ministries, which is part of Luther Place Memorial Church's outreach program. "We realized they had a strong track record in helping the homeless."
The Washington Urban League-Luther Place Senior Center will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Turner said that an outreach effort will be made to other shelters in the city, with a van and driver available to transport homeless seniors to and from the center.
Those seniors with no place to go at the end of the day will be able to stay at one of Luther Place's shelters.
Turner also said that the center would strive to find permanent housing for the people it serves, "either by finding them group homes to live in, or by matching them with people who already have homes and need roommates.
"We know that's a long-range process; it's a beginning point."