Embracing Humanity

February 5, 2020

“911, do you need Police, Fire or Medic?”

“I need an ambulance for a man who says he is having chest pains.”

Not a typical Room In The Inn night at Avondale Presbyterian Church. Jim, the overnight host, had noticed that Walter had enjoyed his dinner and conversation but was now moaning in the men’s room. Jim wanted to respect Walter’s privacy, but his distress increased, and Jim checked on him several times until Walter agreed that Jim should make the 911 call. Medics arrived, and as Jim met them in the parking lot to direct them, another RITI neighbor named Frank stayed by Walter’s side. During the medical assessment Walter lost consciousness and was revived. When they placed him in the ambulance, Walter was stable, and the medics seemed hopeful of his recovery.

In the morning, Jim gathered Walter’s wallet and other belongings. He called the hospital to deliver them but was told that he’d have to speak to the family. With a sinking feeling, he brought the belongings to Urban Ministry Center and talked with Ashley Brown, director of RITI, about what had occurred. Shortly after Jim returned home, Ashley called to say that Walter had passed away at the hospital.

Prior to that day, Urban Ministry Center had had no contact with Walter. He was a first-time user of Room In The Inn.

Avondale Presbyterian later learned that Walter’s surviving brother was devastated at his loss and had no means to claim his remains. The church stepped in with funds for cremation to honor Walter’s life.

“911, do you need Police, Fire or Medic?”

“I need an ambulance for a young woman in labor.”

Not a typical Room In The Inn night at Davidson College Presbyterian Church. Pat, an experienced but last-minute substitute driver, heard Julie say she was very uncomfortable during the ride to the church. After the opening prayer before supper, this young and very pregnant woman approached Pat for help. Julie was in labor.

Two women quickly took Julie from the dining area to a more private space. As they tended to her, Pat made the 911 call. He stayed on the phone with the dispatcher, relaying information even when it got uncomfortably personal. The medics arrived and transported Julie to the hospital. Her healthy baby girl was born early the next morning.

Pat is thoughtful as he recounts the story. “It gives me pause to think about the fact that there WAS room in the inn for this young pregnant woman, and yet…congratulations! Here is the newest and youngest member of Charlotte’s homeless community.”

Julie hasn’t sought services, which gives us hope that she’s found a more stable housing situation for her new family.

In 1996 we began organizing Room In The Inn, and today around 1,500 people, ranging in age from a few months to 80+ years old, use RITI each winter to stay safe and warm. Avondale Presbyterian Church and Davidson College Presbyterian Church have both served Room In The Inn for more than 20 years. Avondale hosts on Sunday nights and DCPC hosts on Thursday and Friday nights. They have welcomed thousands of people experiencing homelessness into their spaces to offer respite, safety and fellowship one night at a time.

And yet, these two life events have caused reverberations through the two congregations in the realization that both could have happened outside and unassisted. They are grateful to have played a part in unique circumstances and agree that all Room In The Inn experiences are personal, embracing humanity and connecting lives at every stage.