Room in the Inn provides programs that emphasize human development and recovery through education, self-help and work, centered in community and long-term support for those who call the streets of Nashville home. In 1985, one Nashville parish opened its doors to those seeking sanctuary in a church parking lot. That simple act of kindness was the beginning of Room in the Inn. Today, nearly 200 congregations and over 7,000 volunteers shelter almost 1,500 men and women from November 1 – March 31 each season.
In 2018, the US government estimated that there are over 500,000 homeless people on any given night. Last year, based on an overnight census, Nashville officials located approximately 2,300 homeless people. Local advocates estimate there are over 20,000 people in Nashville living on the streets, in cars, camps, motels or in shelters (Nashville Scene, 2018). Williamson County also faces a degree of homelessness that hopefully will be a “functional zero” in the near future (Williamson Homepage 2019).
There are many causes and reasons why our neighbors experience homelessness. The solutions to helping others may seem too complex and overwhelming. Room in the Inn, in addition to providing a safe and warm shelter, helps individuals secure more stable work and living environments. Otter Creek Church was one of the original RITI partner congregations. Each Tuesday night, our church provides transportation, a warm meal, clothing, hot showers and a safe resting place. Volunteers also provide breakfast, make sack lunches and wash sheets and towels. There are many ways for individuals and families to get involved.
Room in the Inn believes in the “power of one”: one kind word, one warm meal, one smile. Each Tuesday night, we walk in Jesus’s footsteps by helping our neighbors. Serving and volunteering with Room in the Inn has truly been a blessing for my family. Homeless men have thanked and prayed over me and my family. Small and simple acts like driving the bus provide a few moments of rest and warmth in what could be an otherwise cold and stressful day. I can’t tell you the number of times men have said, “Oh, Otter Creek – we love staying there!”
While one warm night, one new pair of shoes or one hot shower won’t solve homelessness, we are living our Christian faith and making a difference by partnering with RITI. I encourage everyone to continue to seek ways to be generous and give of yourself in this important ministry. I promise, you will receive much more in return than you give back.