Since 1996, the Urban Ministry Center has partnered with colleges and congregations of many faiths to open their facilities to provide shelter and food for homeless people during the winter months. Each site offers a warm, safe place to sleep, serves three meals (dinner, breakfast and bag lunch) and then returns guests the following morning to uptown Charlotte. The program offers a unique way for people of faith to become directly involved with individuals who are homeless. The basic goal is to keep homeless people from freezing on cold winter nights. A greater goal is to provide a more personal relationship to homeless people, at least for a night, and to foster a deeper understanding of the depth and complexity of the issue.
In the 2013-14 season, Room In The Inn provided a total of 17,162 overnight accommodations to 1,457 different people. While many services at Urban Ministry Center are offered on a first-come, first-served basis, Room In The Inn accepts people into the program on the following priority basis:
- Women or men with children
Room in the Inn is a wonderful opportunity for Meadowlake members and our families to grow in their understanding and compassion for our sisters and brothers who struggle with life’s difficulties. One Friday every month, from December through March; we host at Meadowlake our homeless neighbors from the Urban Ministry Center in Charlotte.
We provide a warm welcome, great food, and a comfortable and safe place to spend the night. And we have the chance to spend time in conversation, hearing pieces of their stories, realizing that they are “people just like us,” and seeing how just one “bump” can lead you to the streets.
Every person who participates in Room in the Inn always has the same response: “This had a strong impact on our life, the life of our children. I am so glad that we decided to say ‘Yes” to be a part of this Ministry!”
Participants come to the Urban Ministry Center around 4:00 p.m. for a carefully formatted intake and registration process. Each person is breathalyzed and must show state-issued identification or receive a waiver from our staff. Each person is entered into our database to help us determine who’s using the program and how often. An off-duty police officer is onsite at all times.
Last year, 135 congregations, colleges and YMCA’s partnered with us. On any given night, we have 10 to 15 host sites throughout Charlotte, each taking in 12-14 homeless people on their assigned evening. These organizations pick up our neighbors and then take them back to the host facility for a hot meal and an evening of movies, fellowship and other activities. In some cases, our homeless neighbors can use telephones, showers and laundry facilities. The host group recruits volunteers who spend the night with their homeless neighbors, serve breakfast in the morning and then drive the neighbors back to uptown Charlotte in the morning.
Each year, 5,000 Room In The Inn volunteers throughout the community help in some way: registering neighbors, driving, making dinner and serving dinner, chaperoning overnight, making sandwiches for lunch or simply sharing a meal and conversation.
Writes one grateful neighbor:
“For moments each night, if I am fortunate, I sleep not as homeless in the street, but with warmth and friendship, thanks to Room In The Inn. Somewhere during the evenings of friendly faces, piping hot showers, videos and jokes, laughs and sharing a smoke break, I was transformed from homeless to someone with a misfortune. I no longer view the world from ground level, where each may look down on me. I view the world from ground zero, where each may view my launch. I thank you, all who volunteer for this program. You have given me fortitude, I am sure that I am not alone in this.”