The D.C. branch of the organization operates from a converted crack house in Chinatown. Relying on volunteers and private contributions–not government money–the ministry operates a 150‐man shelter, soup kitchen, food bank and drug treatment center. The ministry addresses its clients’ needs for more than food and shelter: it provides education, job placement assistance and spiritual advice.
Unlike government welfare programs, the ministry operates on the principle that no one should receive something for nothing. Therefore, the homeless must pay $3.00 a night or agree to perform one hour of work on the premises in exchange for lodging.
By insisting that the poor take responsibility for their lives, the ministry has been extraordinarily successful in helping its clients put their lives back together. For example, nearly two out of three of the addicts completing its drug treatment program remain drug free. But a government‐run drug treatment center just three blocks away has only a 10 percent success rate, although it spends nearly 20 times as much per client.
Gospel Rescue Ministries is a tiny fraction of American charitable efforts. Americans contribute more than $125 billion annually to charity. More than 85 percent of all adult Americans make some charitable contribution each year. In addition, about half of all American adults perform volunteer work: more than 20 billion hours in 1991. Translated into dollars, the value of that volunteer work was more than $176 billion. Americans’ charitable contributions total more than $300 billion per year.
Private charities have been more successful than government welfare has at actually helping people for several reasons.