Programs at the McKenna Center
Those who live on the edges of American society can often find themselves in difficulty. The McKenna Center strives to address emergency needs to prevent them from becoming chronic problems.
In the face of the affordable housing crisis, rising rents and foreclosures, there has been great demand for rent and utility assistance. In 2005, we provided $1,000 per month to help stave off evictions and service cutoffs. In 2011, we provided $61,007 to help people stay in their apartments and keep the lights on.
Our program includes a financial counseling interview designed to help recipients of our assistance to avoid the next crisis.
A bus token is the ticket to ride for most poor people. We don't see many homeless people who own cars. The most frequent modes of transportation are the bus and walking. We provide 250 bus tokens each month to homeless men who need to go to the doctor, a job interview or to see a sick relative. As the local transit system METRO phases out bus tokens, we have provided more expensive Smartrip cards. Under our "other transportation" category, we include the cost of longer distance travel so a man can attend his mom's funeral. In addition, we provide support for those who land jobs in suburban areas until they get that first paycheck.
Prior to 2008, the Father McKenna Center supported 143 households per month with groceries. Since the recession began, the number of families served has jumped to about 200 per month. Our food pantry is open Monday-Friday from 11 AM to 12:15 PM. Those in need can receive food twice each month. Our food allocation is designed to supplement the food stamps for which a family could be eligible. A family or individual receives a basic grocery bag with such things as peanut butter and rice, milk and eggs and they also choose from a Choice Menu. While we are constrained by space, we try to provide our clients with as much dignity as possible.
At Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Father McKenna Center provides holiday meals for families in need. In 2010, we provided 330 Thanksgiving dinners and 162 such meals at Christmas. Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown works closely with us at Thanksgiving and we also get support from local businesses.
In cooperation with other nonprofits, the Father McKenna Center provides testing for HIV status each Monday and Thursday. Started under a grant from Howard University's Center for Urban Progress, the program helps homeless men and women to know their status. In a case where a person is found to be HIV positive, they are referred to such institutions as the Carl Vogel Center where they can obtain help with medications and other social services including housing.