Chris Shaw
credit: Chris Shaw

Two historic Washington ministries that have each helped the homeless for more than a century have announced they are joining forces.

The financially troubled Gospel Rescue Ministries, which ran one of the District’s oldest faith-based shelters, has handed over its assets to an even older homeless ministry: Central Union Mission.

The transfer will help Central Union Mission, which has ministered to Washington’s homeless and addicted since 1884, to offer more shelter space and job-training programs, organization officials say.

The move also enables Gospel Rescue Ministries to avoid appearing in bankruptcy court, a step the organization was on the verge of taking. Gospel Rescue Ministries, which has operated a shelter and treatment center in downtown Washington since 1906, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in spring 2012. The organization depended upon District contracts as well as donations for funding. But private grants had dwindled in recent years, David Van Duzer, who chaired the charity’s board told the City Paper at the time.

The merger is a good way for the work of both ministries to move forward with their shared mission, said Sally Cox, former chief financial officer for Gospel Rescue Ministries and now Central Union Mission’s director of finance.

“Two longtime Christian organizations that provide help to the needy continue to provide help to those in need,” Cox said. “That really is a wonderful answer; they could’ve sold this instead; this helps the ministry have more options.”

A bankruptcy judge approved the the asset transfer on Nov. 20, 2013, Cox said.

The dissolving and transferring of Gospel Rescue Ministries assets will allow mission operations to go forward without disruption, under the management of Central Union Mission, she said.

The yellow, mission-style building in Chinatown that for decades served as Gospel Rescue Ministries’ shelter was sold for about $6 million in a bankruptcy auction to Rock Creek Property Group, a commercial real estate investment company headquartered in Washington and Bethesda, Md. The company is now in the process of seeking approval to redevelop the property, located at 810 5th St. NW, as condominiums, according to Rock Creek’s director of construction, Jon Lastuvka.

Addiction recovery services formerly provided by Gospel Rescue Ministries will continue at the 20-bed Fulton House of Hope, renamed Gospel Mission House. Lambert House will go on sheltering families in five apartment units.

And participants in the Ready-to-Work program formerly operated by Gospel Rescue Ministries will continue to help to keep four D.C. neighborhoods clean, Cox said. That program aims at helping the formerly incarcerated re-enter the workforce.

The organization’s vehicles, computers and other business equipment will be acquired by Central Union Mission. Cox said that any salary due to Gospel Rescue Ministries employees was paid in full in March 2013 and that organization officials “were required legally to give notice to everyone (about the asset transfer) and calculate back pay due.”

Just weeks ago, Central Union Mission reopened its 135 bed shelter at 65 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

The newly-renovated facility, located in the historic District-owned Gales School, will offer more space for legal, medical and social services for the men receiving help from Central Union Mission. And the merger with Gospel Rescue Ministries leaves Central Union Mission with additional programs to operate elsewhere in the city, according to Central Union Mission’s executive director, David Treadwell.

“It allows us to have a broader impact across the city than we’ve had previously,” Treadwell said.

“What this offers us is low-income housing for the first time, to house more people for our long-term programs.”