For the 17th year, Frederick Interfaith recognized National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week with a prayer walk and the feeding of people experiencing hunger and homelessness.
The effort, also supported by the Frederick County Coalition for the Homeless, included the distribution of food at the Frederick Community Action Agency soup kitchen and to those sheltering at hotels.
But because of the pandemic, this year’s event looked different than in years past. For instance, the Interfaith Candlelight Prayer Walk for the Hungry and Homeless was held virtually Sunday evening. Still, the goal remained the same: provide food, offer support and raise awareness.
In 2019, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Homeless Point-in-Time Survey reported 286 people as homeless in the county.
“Even though things are different this year, the need is greater so we wanted to make sure that we carried on,” said Teresa Ismach, secretary of Frederick Interfaith. “Usually, we feed about 80 people. This year we’re feeding almost double that, at least 140 people.”
Ismach said that part of the cause for this increased need can be contributed to COVID-19 and the cost of housing in the area.
“Usually we have an actual prayer walk through downtown and we always pick places that serve the hungry and homeless … and we always have a speaker at those locations and then someone to offer a prayer,” Ismach said. “This year … we’re still having the same format of someone from a nonprofit or someone that helps the hungry and homeless and then someone who offers a prayer.”
At the end, she said, people would have the opportunity to ask questions and get more information about the services offered.
Gail Fineburg, a member of Frederick Interfaith, said in an email that the prayer walk was expected to feature eight prayers offered by clergy and members of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Baha’i faiths, along with six local agency representatives to explain the services available.
Ismach said providing the food is a service but it’s also a symbol of helping others and a chance to help people get the help they need.
“It’s overwhelming if you need help,” she said. “I think there’s a real need to help people negotiate to get these services.”
As for what people take away from the event, Ismach hoped the event would increase compassion and love in the community and bring awareness both that there is a need for services and how to use those services.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” she said.