History of The Salvation Army in the National Capital Area

The Salvation Army began work in Washington, D.C. in June 1885, five years after the organization officially arrived in America from its home base in London. From the beginning, the Army in Washington established programs that have fed the hungry, sheltered the homeless, and provided counseling and support to those most in need of help.

Needs grow

Neighborhood locations and the variety of services offered have developed as the city and its needs grew. The earliest locations were in the old downtown, on or close to Pennsylvania Avenue. The Army also opened a location in Alexandria, Virginia in 1885. In the early 20th century, work was opened in neighborhoods such as Shaw in Northwest Washington, and in Southeast, where the Army has been ever since. Expansion into other cities and counties in Maryland and Virginia occurred with the growth of Washington to a major metropolitan area.

Homelessness and substance abuse

Typical of early Salvation Army programs was the Industrial Home, opened in 1903, which addressed the problems of chronic homelessness and unemployment. Men learned trades while working for their lodging and meals. This program eventually became the Men’s Social Service Center and later the Adult Rehabilitation Center. These programs, strengthened by the opening of the Harbor Light Treatment Center in 1951, became increasingly sophisticated, providing comprehensive services to those fighting the twin problems of homelessness and substance abuse.

Housing for women and children

Providing housing to women and children in need has been a long standing commitment of the Army in Washington for eighty years. In 1921, the Evangeline Residence was opened to provide low-cost rooms and board to working women. In the 1940’s, the Emergency Home was opened to provide women with children a sanctuary while seeking permanent homes and jobs. This program has evolved into the Turning Point Center for Women and  Children, a comprehensive supportive independent living program, offering a pathway to independence to young mothers and their kids.

Centers for worship and service

Our neighborhood Corps Centers for worship and service throughout the region have offered emergency support, food, counseling and spiritual nourishment, and activities for every age group for 125 years. Renewing The Salvation Army’s commitment to the Washington area, the Army opened its newest and largest center in Gaithersburg, Maryland in March 2000.  The Salvation Army is dedicated to helping those most in need in the National Capital area.