As the brand new “Inn Keeper” for Room In The Inn, I have been truly overwhelmed with the generosity and compassion that our community provides to our neighbors experiencing homelessness. Room In The Inn is Urban Ministry Center’s emergency shelter program which operates each winter, December – March, since 1996.
This past season I was privileged to organize 132 participants including churches, YMCA’s and schools to provide transportation, meals, and overnight shelter to 1,382 of our homeless neighbors in Charlotte. In those 132 sites are an estimated 5,000 volunteers who make it happen. They drive vans, prepare dinner or breakfast, make beds, provide fellowship, pack snack bags & lunches, and do laundry for our neighbors. And they make a difference.
The season has been ripe with stories that shine. As the community engages with our neighbors, it almost always results in some sort of growth or progress—both for neighbors and for volunteers. One especially impactful story is that of Elizabeth and Terry.
Recently retired, Elizabeth Turner signed on to assist Hawthorne Lane United Methodist with their weekly hosting of Room In The Inn. Specifically, she volunteered to help neighbors with laundry. Clean clothes are intimately related to smelling good, feeling good and ultimately, to good health. And with few items in the rotation, laundry is often a challenge for our neighbors.
Terry Brown Sr. arrived at Hawthorne Lane the first night Elizabeth volunteered. She was instantly drawn to him, providing some of the extra care that a person in a wheelchair might appreciate. She quickly learned that Terry, although a knowledgeable man and even a published author, was about to lose an important opportunity. He had a Housing Voucher that was about to expire. Both have said it was the Lord’s blessing that brought them together.
Terry says, “God gets the glory for my success. Without him nothing is possible and success is deeply rooted and based on him.” He adds that the Lord uses Room In The Inn as an instrument to serve people in need and he sent Elizabeth to help Terry. And has she!
She quickly learned about the Section 8 Housing Voucher process and was able to assist Terry in extending his deadline. Then she began what she calls “pestering people in a friendly way,” something that Terry was really unable to do without the stability of a home, or the mobility that Elizabeth possessed. Long story short, Terry was in housing before Room In The Inn ended for the season and for that he is grateful. Terry and Elizabeth talk each day and she continues to support him in his goals. Elizabeth is not the only friend Terry has made, but he says she “has been a true friend since the day we met.”
He knows she will not quit until each project is complete and she is grateful for the opportunity to focus her gifts and resources on something so meaningful after retirement. It’s a great example of the power of community ending homelessness. We need more of this!
In fact, we need something specific. While we are so thankful for the many who have stepped up to care for our neighbors during the most dangerous months of the year, we also need more to step up on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays. On these evenings we may only have 90 or 100 beds. We really need at least 180 beds each evening. Maybe you can be the next Elizabeth? Can you be a champion at your church or with your group to step up and say we will care for our neighbors on these evenings? There is still a great need and we routinely have to turn people away on those days.
Now is the time to begin planning for December 1, so I hope you will reach out soon. Matt Daniels firstname.lastname@example.org 704-926-0606