The 18th season of Room In The Inn (RITI) ended on March 31, the first nice, warm day in a while – a fitting ending to a season notable in part for harsh weather. The season was also notable for its consistency –
- we had virtually the same number of hosts, neighbors, and beds as we had last year (more beds if you factor in the beds lost because of the three days of extremely bad weather);
- the evening teams’ returning members welcomed new folks and handled their tasks with efficiency and a remarkable spirit
- the hosts welcomed their guests, treated them with respect and warmth, and handled the relatively few crises effectively
- the neighbors responded well to our policy of treating everyone with respect and according to the same policies, demonstrating that fairness is the operating principle of compassion in this context.
I am grateful yet again to all who provided this ministry of hospitality –
- to the thousands of host volunteers who gave of their time, resources, and spirit to the neighbors;
- to the evening teams, whose faithfulness, skill, and spirit are exceptional;
- to the seven evening coordinators – James, Koren, Mike, Jeff, Ron, John, and Beth – some of the finest people I know;
- to CMPD officers Mike Warren and Wayne Armstrong, whose presence and participation was most helpful;
- to the Center staff, particularly those on call at night and the members of the Neighbor Services Team, for their support and assistance over the course of the season
- to the neighbors themselves, most of whom respected the RITI process and the people seeking to provide it for them; I am awed by their resilience and courage in the face of daunting challenges;
- for the generous support of the Ingersoll Rand Foundation. Our RITI numbers show the impact their gift has on our community.
Here are the 2013-14 season statistics (with last season’s numbers in parenthesis):
|Total Number of Families
|Total Individuals in Families
|Family Bed Nights
|Adult Female Bed Nights
|Adult Males Bed Nights
|Total Bed Nights
|Total number of RITI neighbors
RITI also gave the Center’s Neighbor Services team many opportunities to help neighbors work toward ending their homelessness.
- We worked with neighbors having income (working, disability income through Social Security) to help them find alternatives to RITI; over the season, 24 neighbors moved into housing.
- Travelers Aid funds came available for relocation to other places where neighbors had family who would take them in; 6 neighbors received assistance.
- We referred many neighbors to our JobWorks program, where they were able to find leads on jobs.
- The Sunday evening RITI medical clinic’s doctors saw 336 neighbors and prevented nearly 100 emergency room visits.
Good things are happening at the host sites as well.
- David Beers, coordinator for Sharon Presbyterian, wrote that Room In The Inn was about as perfect as it can get at Sharon Pres last night – especially nice meal that our guests really enjoyed; all but one played bingo until lights out and I am told had a fun time; several commented that they slept well. Just wanted to send you a RITI e-mail that didn’t contain a problem…
- Bruce Harned, an overnight host at Myers Park Baptist, spent an evening talking with a guest and wrote about it: Life in Twelve Hours.
- Several hosts reported that neighbors were becoming church members, one even invited to serve on the church’s RITI planning team.
- And a neighbor told me that when a member of a host team discovered that they both had children with autism, the neighbor was invited to become part of the family – literally.
Room In The Inn is an act of charity, pure and simple. We give of our time, talents, and resources to people in need. For many of us, charity is more than common decency or altruism; we give because God calls us to do so. And there’s the rub: as a spiritual discipline, charity is only about giving and the giver; what the recipient does with our gift is between her and God…which means it’s none of our business! That’s hard for most of us, for we want our charity to be effective, make a difference. But that’s not how the divine economy works.
At its best, RITI provides concrete forms of assistance to those in need AND an education to the providers.
In an old Hassidic tale, the rabbi asks his disciples: “how do we know when the night is over and the day has arrived?”
One disciple answered: “Master, night is over and day arrives, when you see a house in the distance and can determine if that’s your house or the house of your neighbor.”
Another responded: “Night is over and day arrives when you can see an animal in the field and determine if it belongs to you or to your neighbor.”
A third offered: “Night is over and day has arrived when you see a flower in the garden and can distinguish its color.”
“No,” responded the master. “Night is over and day arrives when you look into the face of the person beside you and you can see that she is your sister, he is your brother, that you belong to each other. Then, and only then, will you know that night has ended and day has arrived.”
We do belong to each other. That is the real lesson of RITI…and the basis of moving beyond charity towards justice. Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann maintains that justice is finding out what belongs to whom and returning it to them.
Once more, thank you. It is truly a privilege to work with such resourceful, dedicated, compassionate people.
Paul A. Hanneman
Program Director, Room In The Innkeeper