Homeless Outreach

In 1983, The Salvation Army launched a mobile, feeding the homeless, outreach program, to meet the basic needs of the increasing homeless population in Washington D.C. Later named the Grate Patrol, because many of the people being served used sidewalk heating grates for warmth during the cold weather months.

With the help of dedicated volunteers, from more than two dozen local churches and civic organizations, The Salvation Army has been able to offer support to the homeless and hungry. Grate Patrol serves approximately 120-150 evening meals every night of the year.

The Salvation Army employs two full-time drivers and an Outreach Coordinator who keeps the Grate Patrol operation running. The van is equipped with material assistance such as blankets, hats, gloves, hygiene kits, work boots, coats, and other resources. Each “Fresh Start” kit is supplied with basic needs such as body soap, washcloths, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, disposable razors, hand sanitizers or wipes, and first aid items.

Dispensing meals have provided a foundation of trust and respect between the Salvation Army and those in need. However, food alone does not begin to address the root of the problem and factors contributing to living on the streets. Grate Patrol’s Outreach Coordinator maintains an active caseload to help clients meet basic needs, as well as establishing long-term goals to help break the cycle of homelessness. This includes providing help to complete applications for housing, Social Security benefits, veterans’ benefits, medical care, and substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation services. In instances where The Salvation Army cannot provide the necessary service, Grate Patrol clients are referred to other service providers. Often, substance abuse treatments and permanent supportive housing placements are secondary auxiliary problems.

Volunteers are always needed. To become a Grate Patrol volunteer, please complete the sign-up form.