SOME Things Never Change for Fr. John Adams

Seeing Father John Adams (second from right) chatting with volunteers at SOME (So Others Might Eat) in Washington, as they prepare to serve a noon meal to the homeless, recalls photos of a younger Father Adams in the 1970s at Christ House in Alexandria. In 1972, when Father Adams, a Claretian priest, worked for Catholic Charities in Northern Virginia, one of his duties was to assess needs in the community. He determined that "a place where we could serve meals, where we could take people in who were homeless" was the primary need. A homeless shelter, Christ House, was established in the upper floors of the Catholic Charities offices at 809 Cameron St. in Alexandria. Father Adams, together with a layman, Larry Woods, and Brothers of the Holy Cross, Raymond Apiecella and John Gleason, renovated the space to accommodate the needy who soon filled Christ House. While Father Adams was assigned to parish work for a year, Christ House briefly closed. When he returned, Father Adams spoke to Father Joseph Wingler about converting warehouse property, which was owned by the St. Vincent de Paul Society, into a shelter. In 1977, Christ House moved to its present location at Prince and West Sts. in Alexandria. Father Adams became the director of Christ House, a 14-bed shelter with a first-floor dining room. Under his leadership, Dismas House, a facility for troubled teenage boys; a senior citizens program that evolved into the St. Martin de Porres Center; and a child care center began. In 1978, Father Adams left Christ House and became the executive director of SOME, an interfaith nonprofit. He explains that Father Horace McKenna started SOME "by serving sandwiches to the homeless out of the back door of the rectory of St. Aloysius Church" in Washington. Because the number of homeless being served steadily increased, the operation moved to 71 O Street, N.W. When Father Adams took over, SOME was "struggling" to serve 40-60 meals a day. There was no hot water, and food was cooked on a two-burner stove. Father McKenna split donations that he received between St. Aloysius and SOME. According to Father Adams, SOME thrived because of "Divine Providence" and the support of innumerable volunteers. It now serves 850- 1,000 meals daily. Father Adams explained that after the homeless are fed, SOME addresses four basic needs: affordable housing, treatment of mental illness, job training, and treatment of addictions. In 1997, SOME opened a new red brick administrative and medical headquarters at 60 O St., N.W., to better serve "those most in need." A smiling volunteer receptionist greets clients who arrive after breakfast for free medical, dental or psychiatric care. They meet with counselors in cheerily decorated offices and take advantage of state-of-the-art X-ray, ophthalmology and gastroenterology services on site. SOME also runs Isaiah House, at 1509 North Capitol St., N.E., a day center where the mission is to "stabilize" the chronically mentally ill and to teach them basic daily living skills SOME’s 90-day drug treatment program in Highview, W.Va., near Winchester, has been called "Miracle Mountain," for its success in treating addictions. While some clients decide to stay in Winchester, others return to Washington where they can live in transitional housing and take advantage of job training. SOME has a four-year-old training program located in the old St. Francis Xavier School. Instruction in computer skills, certified nursing assistant training or building maintenance and repair classes are available. Trainees graduate to full-time jobs that pay a "living wage" with benefits. Affordable housing for 225 homeless and low-income persons is maintained by SOME. Father Adams notes that this housing is well-run and safe, no alcohol is allowed and residents are subject to random drug testing. SOME runs Shalom House and Dwelling Place, day centers for seniors; Dwelling Place Shelter, a seven-bed facility for abused older people; and the Elderly Caregiver Program, which matches the homebound elderly with individual volunteers. Seniors who may not have had a vacation in years can attend SOME’s weeklong Senior Summer Camp in West Virginia. Father Adams stresses that none of this would be possible without the tremendous support of volunteers and donations. Volunteers include missions from Alabama or North Carolina, students from Sidwell Friends School in Washington or groups from Andrews Air Force Base. Doctors also volunteer their services and pharmaceutical companies donate medicine. And then there are the regulars — volunteers who have been coming every week for years — who see, as Father Adams describes it, "the face of Christ in the people they serve." Dick Pastore, Joe Savittiere and Kirby Gates were dressed in their green SOME aprons preparing pasta for lunch recently. Savittiere said that after a 30-year career in government, he felt it was time to "give something back" and when he looked into volunteering at SOME four years ago, he felt right at home. He comes every Wednesday to serve breakfast and lunch. The warm smiles of Frances Young and Betty Gooden have welcomed lunch time diners at SOME for two and four years respectively. Nearby, Sue Frey works in the women and children’s dining room. A plaque on the door of the ophthalmology room at 60 O St. is a reminder of her donation toward equipment in memory of her husband, an ophthalmologist. As SOME celebrates its 30th anniversary, its philosophy continues to be "the belief that justice begins when we show hospitality to anyone in need who comes our way." To contact SOME about volunteering or making a donation, call 202/797-8806 or go to www.some.org.

Copyright ?2001 Arlington Catholic Herald.  All rights reserved.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2001