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Nights are warmer now for homeless in affluent Georgetown

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A rose-and-indigo sunset slipped into the Potomac River as a small group gathered on the Georgetown waterfront to dedicate their prayers and four rented trailers to the homeless.

The Georgetown shelter for its homeless street people had finally opened on a freezing winter night as a result of two months of united effort by a caring community. Its unique amalgam of private and public groups could serve as a prototype for other communities across the United States, because this coalition for the homeless includes the Georgetown Clergy Association and its 10 member churches, the nonprofit Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV), the Georgetown Civic Association, the Advisory Neighborhood Council, Washington Mayor Marion Barry's office of community services, the US Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Task Force on the Homeless. It also initially involved Defense Department (DOD), which had volunteered to lease metal barracks for the shelter.

The shelter opened with a dedication prayer from the Rev. William Wegener, pastor of Georgetown Lutheran Church and president of the Georgetown Clergy Association, which helped spearhead the project. Then Mayor Barry (D) followed, saying, ''This is what I call sharing a community responsibility: feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked.''

The site of the shelter, on a black asphalt parking lot formerly used by the city for impounded cars, looked like a Hollywood premiere. Huge television klieg lights shown down on the four white aluminum trailers set up on cement blocks to house 50 homeless men. Inside the trailers were olive-canvas and metal Army cots with wool blankets. No sheets, curtains, or shades. Each trailer contained a bathroom with wash basin and toilet but no showers. One of the trailers held a few chairs, a small black-and-white TV set propped on cement blocks, and an area for serving meals via a mobile soup kitchen operated by a clergy association and the Salvation Army.

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