This season continued a trend we’ve seen over the past few seasons:
- we had virtually the same number of hosts, neighbors, and beds as we had last year
- the evening teams welcomed new folks and handled their tasks – including the “dueling computers” at each check-in station – with efficiency and a remarkable spirit
- the hosts graciously welcomed their guests, treated them with respect and warmth, and handled the relatively few crises effectively
- the neighbors responded well to our practice of treating everyone with respect and according to the same policies, demonstrating once again that in this context fairness is the operating principle of compassion.
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; and to the RITI Check-in Saints, people who were willing to step in when check-in team members had to be absent;
- to the seven evening coordinators – Alice, Koren, Mike, Jeff, Ron, John, and Beth – some of the finest people I know;
- to officers Mike Warren, Wayne Armstrong, and Lou Rango, whose presence and participation was most valuable;
- to the Center staff, particularly those staff who volunteered to help with check-in on a weekly basis, to those staff on call at night, and to 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.
Here are the 2014-15 season statistics (with last season’s numbers in brackets):
|Total Number of Families||90 |
|Total Children||127 |
|Total Individuals in Families||178 |
|Adult Females||334 |
|Adult Males under 60||812 |
|Adult Males over 60||78 |
|Family Bed Nights||1,920 [1.553]|
|Adult Female Bed Nights||5,575 [5,874]|
|Adult Males under 60 Bed Nights||8,788 [8,913]|
|Adult Males over 60 Bed Nights||908 |
|Total Bed Nights||17,191 [17,182]|
We welcomed several new hosts this season, all of whom continued the rich tradition of hospitality and compassion. Our number of hosts remained at 135, including partnering congregations who assist at host sites. Amazing work!
Some of you may not know that there is a Sunday evening RITI Urgent Care Clinic, run by 14 volunteers, 11 compassionate doctors, and enormous quantities of Ziploc bags containing assorted pills, creams and remedies. Coordinator Karen Weber writes, Dr. Jane Harrell had the vision to provide services to RITI guests that would help avoid some Emergency Room visits… the clinic provides services ranging from Tylenol for a simple headache to antibiotics for an infection. All medications and products are donated, and it is always a bit of a miracle how often just the needed item is available (when it wasn’t available the week prior or ever seen again). Thank you to all those who have and will donate to this worthwhile program! This year, the Clinic saw 318 neighbors over its 16-week run, preventing at least 27 ER visits. Thanks, Karen, and thanks to your great team!
Reflections on RITI from volunteers and neighbors
Reflections from two Christ Church teenagers who have helped with RITI:
An 11th grader writes, I’ve spent many Sundays setting up for Room In the Inn for the past two years. I enjoy doing this because by doing so I know I am helping twelve homeless neighbors each week to have an experience of “home” that is somewhat rare for them. I do not get to spend dinner with the guests or even get to meet them but I am still so satisfied knowing that I am helping others by giving my time to make their time and stay at Christ Church as perfect as it can be. Volunteering through Room in the Inn allows me to meet and spend time with other members of our church that I don’t regularly get to be around and it makes it all the more fun! Room in the Inn is my way of giving back to those less fortunate than I am and I am glad to do it! It’s been a great learning experience for me and others, I’m sure, to realize how blessed we are and how our help to others is so beneficial and appreciated.
Another high schooler writes, I talked with several guests last night at Room in the Inn (RITI). I could not have had a more meaningful and faith based Sunday night. We talked about faith. We talked about how life is hard sometimes for all of us. We talked about how God is always there—wherever we are. We shared stories of times we reached for God and He responded. We talked about times we forgot to ask for God’s help and how the journey was harder without asking God to walk with us every step of the way. We laughed. We assured each other that with God’s help and our cooperation, our lives will work out for the best. We were thankful for all of the many blessings in our lives. When reading Jesus Calling the next morning, the passage said, “Give up the illusion that you deserve a problem-free life.” The passage continued, “In fact, my light shines most brightly through believers who trust me in the dark.” There was lots of light last night at RITI.”
We owe it to our kids to help them realize that we are all one in God’s eyes…and learn how to live that out.
We received these notes from neighbors:
I just want to thank you for all your help in putting me on the right path because of your program, Rooms at the Inn, I meet a lot of beautiful people that helped change my life. I’m now at Hopkins park ministries and am looking for employment. I also have asked for directions in the way to become a pastor and continue in the way of the Lord. I don’t know as of yet how to do that but someone will lead me down the right road. I really want to thank all the churches who made me feel needed and set me on that course. Thank you so much for the ladies at the Living Savior Lutheran Church (Ms. Alice ) for allowing the Holy Spirit to work through them to help me help someone else, I’ll never forget your kindness. Thank you so much. Jeffrey
To Urban Ministries and participating churches, RITI – I was homeless for a time this past January with nowhere to stay. Thankfully, I was given the option of staying in churches that opened their doors to those of us in need. I just wanted to say “thank you” to all of those churches, their parishoners, and to the volunteer and non-volunteer staff of the Urban Ministry Center and the RITI program. I was so impressed, not only with the generous accommodations and meals, but with the efficiency, organization, and safety of the program. Most of all, thanks to you for treating me with love and respect. Right now I have a safe, healthy place to live, and for that I am grateful. Peace, joy, and love, Jeannette
RITI is a band-aid – you’ve heard me say that before. It doesn’t solve homelessness. Yet it remains necessary, for the shelters are constantly full and, while we know that permanent supportive housing is the proven solution to chronic homelessness, our community has a significant shortage of affordable housing. Without places for folks to live, homelessness will not go away, and RITI will continue to be necessary.
One commentator has called homelessness capitalism’s most flagrant failure. As the Judeo-Christian ethical influence mixed with the development of Western culture, the poor were seen as ‘ambassadors of God’ or opportunities to ‘do good.’ Throughout most of our history, a stranger represented the divine or a friend; today a homeless person, unknown and hungry, becomes more a problem to be solved (or ignored) than a human being in need of assistance.
RITI is a shining example of the “old school” response to the “ambassadors of God” sent our way. Every spiritual tradition regards hospitality and charity as virtues to be practiced by the faithful. They are ways to offer – not a hand out, but simply a hand…of welcome, compassion, and respect. You have once again been the hands and feet of the Holy One. Well done.
There’s yet another spiritual dimension to our work together. For a long while I have been haunted by these words from Frederick Buechner (The Longing for Home): Woe to us indeed if we forget the homeless ones who have no vote, no power, nobody to lobby for them, and who might as well have no faces even, the way we try to avoid the troubling sight of them in the streets of the cities where they roam like stray cats. And as we listen each night to the news of what happened in our lives that day, woe to us if we forget our own homelessness.
To be homeless the way people like you and me are apt to be homeless is to have homes all over the place but not to be really at home in any of them. To be really at home is to be really at peace, and our lives are so intricately interwoven that there can be no real peace for any of us until there is peace for all of us.
Many of you have felt that in your hearts, in your bones…lived it. And you know that it changes everything. It is a true privilege and an honor to work with you. Thank you.