Even in Montgomery County, a region known for its affluence, homelessness and hunger are ever-present realities. In 1983, a band of religious communities decided it was time to change that. An all-volunteer, grassroots initiative for the homeless convened with members of fifteen local religious congregations and founded Shepherd’s Table.
At its start, Shepherd’s Table functioned as a small soup kitchen behind First Baptist Church of Silver Spring. At our first meal, volunteers from St. Luke’s Lutheran Church fed seven guests. By June 1984, the program averaged 1,500 dinner guests a month. Moved with compassion, the community around Shepherd’s Table began donating not only their time through volunteering during meal service but also by donating food and raising money for kitchen equipment. As the project grew, the organization expanded to meet the community’s greatest needs. Within a year, services included the distribution of free clothing, laundry, shower facilities, referrals to medical clinics, counseling, treatment for substance addiction, mental health therapy, referrals to homeless shelters and other professional services. An Eye Clinic was established in 1999 and weekend brunch services began in 2012.
In December 2016, Shepherd’s Table moved to a new facility provided by Montgomery County, expanding our capacity for meal service. In addition to our Daily Meals program that provides three meals on weekdays and two on weekends, we launched Beyond the Table in 2020 to distribute meals at sites in both Montgomery and Prince George’s County. We did this as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and new data revealing that over 80,000 people in Montgomery County experience food insecurity every day – most of them immigrant women and children. Even through economic hardships and the challenges of the pandemic, Shepherd’s Table has still never missed a single day of meal service since its doors opened 38 years ago. We’re committed to welcoming all to our community table for meals and access to social services provided with compassion and respect.
What Does Homelessness in Montgomery County Look Like Today?
In Montgomery County, there are 647 people experiencing homelessness, as counted by the 2019 Point in Time annual survey.
Shepherd’s Table is pleased to be at the beginning of the Montgomery County Continuum of Care (CoC), providing a strong safety net for people experiencing homelessness. The CoC embraces the Housing First philosophy and is committed to making homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring for all residents. Across the county, there are initiatives and campaigns to end chronic homelessness, veteran homelessness, and homelessness for families, youth and children. Shepherd’s Table works closely with Interfaith Works, another member of the CoC, who is housed in the same building at Progress Place.