‘Brightest light in the Gas Lamp District’

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HOLY SMOKE makes music at the Centre City Corps’ Wednesday night meal.


In the heart of San Diego, Sierra del Mar’s Centre City Corps strives to be “the brightest light in the Gas Lamp District.” The corps, led by Captains Thomas and Patricia Poochigian, reaches out to the seniors and homeless who populate downtown San Diego.

Ten years ago, the once united San Diego Citadel Corps and the Centre City corps separated, with the Citadel moving to a different area of the city. The corps lost many of its Sunday worshippers, although seniors and young people continued to participate in programs. Many seniors in the area would attend programs, but worship elsewhere.

Since that time the corps officers have met the challenge by building on their outreach to the community. The corps runs a senior center and an extensive outreach to the 6,000 homeless in the area. “We strive for a home atmosphere,” says Poochigian, “in which people can find stability and begin to grow. We want people to keep coming back, first to have physical needs met, and then to know the Lord.”

The corps offers fellowship meals, three on Sunday and one on Wednesday night. All from the community are invited, and about 80-100 are served at each seating. Wednesday evenings are notable for another activity–performances of the musical group Holy Smoke, made up of formerly homeless musicians.

Poochigian had noticed many homeless musicians on the streets of the city, so he opened the chapel for them to rehearse, and soon Holy Smoke developed. The group has a core of three men, with others joining in at different times. One is a committed Christian, and the other two are seekers. Every Wednesday, the group plays before the service, as well as accompanying choruses. They also performed at the Christmas holiday breakfast at the corps, provided by the Hyatt Regency.

Through its community outreach, the San Diego Centre Corps has seen steady growth. From the 30 or 40 that worshipped 10 years ago, the corps now sees about 100 or more at every service. Many, who first came just to eat, now come to feed their souls, not just their bodies.

Guards, Sunbeams ‘shine each day’

Guards, Sunbeams ‘shine each day’

SUNBEAMS FROM THE Torrance Corps pose with leader Dolores Jimenez (front center)

Portland’s West Women’s shelter changes lives

Portland’s West Women’s shelter changes lives

WEST WOMEN’S DIRECTOR Pat Mohr shares a light moment with a young client

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