The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


After Sept. 11, an empty pantry

The number of people seeking assistance from D.C.-area food pantries has doubled since Sept. 11, says Thomas Knoll, an ELCA pastor and the executive director of Community Family Life Services, an ELCA social service agency that provides rental, utility and food assistance. The agency was nearly out of funding by the end of October.

Before Sept. 11, 80 to 90 people daily requested assistance. "Now about 175 wait in lines for the little we can offer them," Knoll says. "We're seeing the working poor — people with jobs in food service or the hospitality industry. There's no work for them because there's no tourism. ... We're wondering what to do. Within three to four months, these people will be homeless." That poses another problem since shelters are at capacity.

"If we can help people out for a couple of months until tourism improves, they'll be able to stay in their homes," Knoll says.

One woman who cleans hotel rooms had her job cut to two hours a day, leaving her with a $550 utilities bill she couldn't pay.

Her church paid $50, but she still owed $500 — the average needed for each family who seeks assistance. Knoll personally paid her bill but says, "I can't do that forever. I'm hopeful that the United Way, the Red Cross, Lutheran Disaster Response or some other group will come through for us."


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