The Christ House journey began in 1974 when Allen and Janelle Goetcheus accepted an assignment to serve as hospital missionaries in Pakistan. While waiting for visas, Janelle, a physician, and Allen, a United Methodist minister, visited the Church of the Saviour and some of its ministries in DC. Moved by the immense need among the poor and homeless in the city, they decided to cancel their plans to work abroad and moved to Washington, DC in 1976.
While practicing medicine among the poor and homeless in the city, Janelle realized that her patients had health needs that were too complex to address in a clinic setting. She also saw that hospitals would discharge the uninsured more quickly than other patients, meaning that homeless patients had to recuperate on the streets or in shelters. Janelle knew that these patients needed a safe place to live and receive respite care while recovering from major illnesses and surgeries. She and Allen “called” together five other members of the Church of the Saviour community to create a prayerful mission group that included Marja and David Hilfiker, Don and Ellen Martin, and Sister Marcella Jordan. These seven are credited for envisioning and creating Christ House, though several others would come to serve as leaders in the ministry.
The abandoned building that was to become Christ House, circa 1985.
Janelle shared the mission group’s concerns about the lack of access to health care for sick, homeless people with Gordon Cosby, pastor of the Church of the Saviour. He in turn spoke with an individual who decided to anonymously donate $2.5 million to purchase and renovate the abandoned building at 1717 Columbia Road NW, as well as provide funds for the first few months of operating costs. On Christmas Eve of 1985, Christ House welcomed its first patient.
Allen and Janelle also helped found several other health care ministries: Crossroad Health Ministry was first in 1977, followed by Community of Hope in 1978, Columbia Road Health Services in 1979, and a satellite clinic at SOME (So Others Might Eat) in 1981.
Today, Janelle continues to provide care for patients while also serving as the Medical Director at Christ House.