Energy justice—the application of ethical principles to reducing the energy burden on disadvantaged and vulnerable populations—is incredibly important here in the District of Columbia. For many community-based organizations, energy savings can go a long way and help them serve more of our neighbors in need. Increasing access and lowering the barriers to energy efficiency upgrades, such as LED lighting, is a crucial component of creating energy justice in our communities.
Christ House opened in December 1985 as the first 24-hour residential medical facility for homeless persons in the United States. Patients admitted to Christ House come from area hospitals, shelters, clinics, and medical outreach projects. Many are malnourished, anemic, depressed, and desperately disconnected from healthy sources of support. In 2017, for example, Christ House provided health care for 235 patients, averaging a 40-day stay per person.
But Christ House faced a challenge—the facilities’ outdated lighting was of poor quality and cost a lot of money in wasted energy and maintenance costs. And, in 2018, the community organization reached out to the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) for support in completing a comprehensive LED lighting upgrade. Funds were competitively awarded to them through the DCSEU’s pilot Income Qualified Efficiency Fund (IQEF) program. Working with local contractor Greenscape Environmental Services, the DCSEU installed highly efficient LED lights throughout the medical facility. As a result, Christ House’s lighting upgrade is expected to save the facility more than $13,000 in energy costs in the first year. Over the lifetime of the lighting upgrade, Christ House will save more than $120,000 in energy costs.
“Providing a clean, bright facility is so central to our mission of high quality healthcare for men in the District experiencing homelessness,” said Christ House Director, Matthew Jordan. “Not only have the new lights brightened up our facility, but we have been able to reduce our energy consumption and lower our bills. This frees up funds to support other parts of our mission!”
Today, Christ House is still the only facility of its kind in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, where over 6,000 people experience homelessness every day. Studies show that vulnerable populations—and those who serve them—spend a disproportionately large share of their wages on energy costs. Reducing this energy burden means that they can invest more in the things that matter most to them.