When Cheri Lindblom started volunteering with Room In the Inn 25 years ago, her daughters were just three and five. They are now 28 and 30. “I often say my girls were raised in Room In the Inn,” she says. “In actuality, I was the one who was raised in Room In the Inn. I have seen how one act of kindness, one conversation, one smile, one listening ear, or one meal can make a difference in the life of an individual experiencing homelessness.”
The family started by making beds at their own host site, Myers Park Baptist Church, then moved into meals, laundry and transportation. Over the years, Cheri has become an essential member of the program’s administration team. While the work is rewarding, it can also be heartbreaking. Since the pandemic, bed availability has decreased dramatically. This past season, more guests were handicapped and needed accessible accommodations.
“There are never enough beds, and there is always a wait list,” she says. One Saturday night in March, there were just 35 beds available, and all were filled with families and women. Twelve women were placed on the wait list, and all of the men were turned away. Cheri says there are seven words she dreads having to say: “Sorry, there are no beds available tonight.”
But then there are the moments that feel like little miracles. When a mother arrived from out of state with her two daughters at 3:45, registration was closed and the family had no other options. Covenant Presbyterian managed to squeeze them in. “That is the best part,” Cheri says. “We are a community – we work together for our neighbors. Covenant is just one of many host sites that will step up when we ask. I could cite an example from every location that serves our guests. I love seeing drivers who pick up the neighbors and greet them by name, remembering them from previous weeks.”
Cheri feels sad when the season ends. She misses the fellowship of the program teams. She misses the community of churches coming together for a common cause. Most of all, she misses seeing the neighbors and hearing their stories. “People who live on the streets do not get a lot of people who look them in the eyes, or listen to their stories, or listen to them at all,” she says. “All of our neighbors have a story. All we have to do is ask.”