As a new resident of the Shaw-Logan community and senior pastor of Luther Place Memorial Church, I was amazed by a letter to the editor in your Dec. 24 issue. The author is entitled to his opinion, in this case a sweeping indictment of downtown churches and their motives (“nothing more exotic than an instinct for survival…half-baked sense of divine mission…a sense of guilt…”), but not to his laughably inaccurate description of our congregation’s N Street Village development (which he says would have been “a Wal-Mart-sized homeless shelter in the 1300 block of N Street NW” had the “neighborhood” not blocked it).
Luther Place has a long history of hospitality for temporarily homeless women and maintains a 30-bed facility, staffed by volunteers (many from this community), on the fourth floor of the church building at 1226 Vermont Ave. NW. In the church’s service to homeless persons, it became obvious to members that a lack of affordable housing was one significant cause of homelessness—hence the arduous task of building the attractive structure with its range of amenities on a former parking lot across N Street. Calling this project a “homeless shelter,” Wal-Mart-sized or otherwise, may have been a useful ploy when the goal was to scare up opposition. It was never true. And taking away valuable parking space to build low- and moderate-income housing made the congregation less—not more—attractive to suburban commuters. Luther Place members live in Adams Morgan, Capitol Hill, Shaw, Mount Pleasant, Logan Circle, and other parts of the District—and some come from the suburbs my new neighbor fulminates against. Together with N Street Village, we are as rich in diversity as the neighborhood we serve. We’re here loving the city and, as God gives us grace, all of its people, and we invite the suspicious to “come and see”!
Luther Place Memorial Church