Room In The Inn helps people experiencing homelessness by coordinating emergency shelter in partnership with faith organizations during the winter months.
.. but this story is not about statistics or the number of homeless individuals that have been helped by this program. It is about the people. Over the next few months, you will hear about Room In The Inn (RITI) from the people side of things.
For almost 20 years, I have had the privilege of volunteering at RITI in the intake process. Intake is where our neighbors get checked into the program and assigned to a host site … their “home” for the evening. Over the last 20 years, there have been nights when there wasn’t “room in the inn” and we had to turn away men.
In December of last year, we experienced a first. We totally filled up all the beds the first night. Usually this doesn’t start until later in the season since many times men will save up their bed nights for when the weather is colder. We also saw a larger number of women with young children. On nights when we didn’t have enough beds and I went home to my warm bed, I thought about where the men were sleeping and if they were cold.
Our intake process gives priority to families, women and then men. This ensures that women and children get the available beds. As the season progressed, the number of women and children grew. We had some nights when there were 10 or more families. I left at night wondering what they did during the day, where they did their homework, where they told people they lived… but somehow it seemed easier to know that at least that night, they were safe and warm in a host site.
Monday night (the night where I volunteer) is a “low bed count” night. This means that there are not as many host sites, so the total number of available beds is lower. We filled all the beds (several churches were men only churches) and we didn’t have room for everyone. For the first time, we had to turn away women. We called the Salvation Army women’s shelter and they found room. Unfortunately, as the season went on, we had to start assigning lottery numbers to the women to see who would have a warm place to sleep and who had to face the cold alone. There were some nights where more than 10 women did not get placed in a host site and one instance where a family showed up after all beds had been assigned and there was no room. My bed doesn’t feel as warm on Monday nights.
Do you want to make a difference? We need additional host sites or individuals willing to volunteer at an existing host site. Our greatest needed is for Sunday through Wednesday nights. Contact Ashley Brown at Innkeeper@Urbanministrycenter.org to get involved! Thank you!