Miriam’s Kitchen was founded in 1983 to meet the urgent needs of people experiencing homelessness in downtown Washington, DC. Three organizations – Western Presbyterian Church, Unity Church and the George Washington University Hillel – banded together to serve our neighbors. In the beginning, we served only breakfast. Soon we added case management, our therapeutic art program and we started serving dinner too. Our base of support grew from the original three organizations to hundreds of corporations and faith communities and thousands of individuals.
But after seeing the same individuals in our dining room year after year, we recognized that serving meals was not enough.
So we challenged ourselves to think about homelessness in a bold new way. We asked “How do we put ourselves out of business?”
This is why in 2012 Miriam’s Kitchen changed our mission from just responding to homelessness to fighting to end it. In doing so we held ourselves accountable for every action needed to accomplish this goal:
- Over the years we expanded our programs and built partnerships that brought nurses, social workers, psychiatrists and lawyers on site—all aimed to help our guests improve their health, increase their income and obtain housing
- We established a housing program to make sure that when clients move into housing, they have the support they need so they don’t fall back into homelessness;
- We added an advocacy program—because we’re trying to end homelessness not just for the guests that walk through our doors, but for all individuals who are experiencing long term homelessness in DC;
- And we recently received a federal grant to launch a new Street Outreach Program, which takes the quality services that we provide in our dining room onto the streets—wherever individuals experiencing homelessness might be (under bridges, in parks, in museums…)
The good news is that we are making progress in ending chronic homelessness in DC! Chronic homelessness in DC has declined 19.7% from 2012 (when we changed our mission) to 2016. Additionally, MK and our partners have helped house more than 1,570 veterans since 2013!
Learn more about Our Cause.
How did we get the name Miriam’s Kitchen?
As an organization founded by a collaboration of three religious organizations (Western Presbyterian Church, United Church and George Washington University’s Hillel), it’s only fitting that our name have biblical origins.
According to the Bible, as the people of Israel traveled to the Promised Land, Moses’ sister Miriam was forced to live in isolation (and with a bad case of leprosy) outside of the main encampment as punishment for questioning Moses’ authority. Moses eventually intercedes and asks God to allow Miriam to be re-integrated into the people. After a punishment lasting seven days, God relents and heals Miriam.
Miriam was chosen as our namesake as our founders saw a parallel between Miriam being forced to live in isolation and the lives of isolation our guests experience. As our organization began, our goal was to bring those guests back into ‘camp’, just as Miriam was, so that they too can heal and enjoy the same dignity and comforts as the rest of us.