Interfaith Works (www.iworksmc.org) assists 20,000 homeless and low-income residents each year, equipping them to lift themselves from poverty by addressing the causes of their challenges. Interfaith Works’ programs change lives with the help of 5,500 volunteers and 165 congregations.
Serves: Montgomery County
What a donation buys:
• $250 provides 10 students with new backpacks filled with school supplies.
• $1,000 provides job counseling and workforce development classes to the unemployed.
• $10,000 provides housing for a homeless family for seven-plus months, together with professional case management and supportive services to help them reach a path to
• One day: Donate or sort goods at the clothing center.
• Ongoing; Mentor families with tutoring, job coaching or parenting skills.
• Student Service Learning hours
Rich Ameninhat Parks at Carroll House, where he lived when he was homeless. Photo by Michael Ventura.
Helping the homeless get—and stay—off the streets
By Joe Zimmermann
In the summer of 2014, just when he was feeling optimistic about breaking his cycle of homelessness, Rich Ameninhat Parks had a heart attack. He had recently moved out of a men’s shelter to find work with a friend in Texas, but after the medical scare he knew he needed to devote more time to taking care of himself. “It was a blessing in disguise,” he says. “I knew I had to really go all in.”
So Parks returned to Carroll House, the transitional shelter in Silver Spring he’d recently left, to get his life together. He spent a year and a half at the shelter, which aims to help end homelessness—permanently—for the 32 men who live there. Interfaith Works, the nonprofit that runs Carroll House, connected Parks with a doctor who finally diagnosed a medical condition that he says had been a root cause of his struggle with alcohol and drug abuse. After Parks got the treatment he needed, his caseworker signed him up for a housing opportunities program, and he moved into his own apartment in Wheaton in July.
“I can definitely say that Carroll House and the people who were there at the time were critical to my recovery and the success I have at this time,” Parks says.
Carroll House is just one of the programs offered by Interfaith Works, which also runs a clothing center, vocational services, counseling centers and seven other housing programs in Montgomery County. The programs share the goal of providing basic needs to families and individuals so they can pull themselves out of homelessness or poverty and become independent. “What we’re trying to do is not be a Band-Aid,” says Interfaith Works CEO Shane Rock. “We’re trying to help people regain the joy and happiness and independence to live a fulfilling life.”
Ultimately, Rockville-based Interfaith Works—which was founded in 1972 as a way to bring different faith communities together around a common goal of helping the poor—hopes to reduce Montgomery County’s poverty rate to the lowest in the state.
Since leaving Carroll House, Parks, a former English teacher, has enrolled in a job training program for entrepreneurs. He hopes to start a business that helps people facing some of the same issues that he overcame. “Who knows,” he says, “that might include working with Interfaith Works someday.”