Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Room In The Inn Over 30 Years

by Charles Strobel, Founding Director

Over the years I’ve wondered just what impact Room In The Inn has had on people—I’m not really sure.  I do know this.  I was out in the country recently and looked up at the stars and saw all these thousands and thousands of stars.  And I wondered that if each of those stars represented a person who had come through Room In The Inn over the years—if they had nothing else in their life that meant anything—they could at least say that once upon a time in Nashville, Tennessee, I met some people who loved me just the way I was.

I am not sure the Nashville community at-large understands Room In The Inn’s importance.  Can you imagine the last 30 years in Nashville without the Room In The Inn?  Imagine the additional hardship and misery that some of our citizens would have had to endure if it did not exist.

Instead, we are thankful that the Room In The Inn religious communities realize that the suffering of the homeless is a burden that thousands of volunteers cannot ignore and must carry together.

So we celebrate thirty years of service, but we also look ahead longing for the day when all of our citizens can find a permanent place—their own room in the inn.

What started out in 1986 with 4 congregations has grown in size to 190+ during this time.  In addition to our winter shelter that addresses emergency needs of food, clothing, shelter and personal hygiene services, we have added long-term services of education, employment, medical and residential.

Finally, Room In The Inn gets its name from a story in the Bible of a family coming to a small town called Bethlehem and not finding any room in the inn.  We cannot go back in history 2,000 years and change that story, but what we do in Nashville each evening we are open, is to reverse that story’s ending by providing room in the inn.

As we continue our 30th season, we have so many reasons to give thanks.  So I want to thank you for all that you’ve done for us in our past and ask for your continued help in our future.

Friday, December 11, 2015

We Remember - We Act

James Alexander
by Jeff Moles

This weekend, Nashville will remember 70 members of its homeless and formerly homeless community who died in 2015. Most of these were people who were well known to us at Room In The Inn. They were and are part of our community, important for being exactly who they were and missed because of the relationships we had with them. To mention just a few:

Arthur “Sal” Peck enjoyed spending time in our art room, and had a great sense of humor. He died
after a bout with cancer.

Jason Vaughan, a young man known as “Cowboy” for the boots and hat he wore, died when he fell from a ledge near where he was camping downtown. His sly smile and love for music will be what we remember.

James Alexander lived in our apartments after he struggled with homelessness. He gave back many hours of volunteer time, cleaning and working in our kitchen.

Thomas Holt
Thomas Holt came to us several years ago, just out of prison and well-conditioned that violent, abusive environment. Over time, we got to know the real Thomas, who enjoyed telling jokes, doing volunteer work, talking to anyone who would listen, and eating more sweets than his doctor advised.

Margie Lucas lived on the streets since she was a young woman, and endured much more than her share of difficulty in life. She succumbed to a long-term illness.

Kenneth Keesee reconnected with family in his later years. A favorite memory of him is a day when we did karaoke at Room In The Inn. Ken was right in the middle of a big circle of people belting out “We Are Family” as loudly as he could. He was killed by a drunk driver this year.

The memorial tree that stands in our main entrance at Room In The Inn bears the names of over 650 homeless individuals who died after struggling with homelessness. For me, its presence inside our front door serves two purposes. It is a reminder of each of the individuals who were so important to us. When we see their names, we remember their faces and stories. But it is also a slap in the face as I walk in the door. It is a reminder that we are responding to an emergency. In a wealthy and growing city, we do not provide enough
affordable housing for people. Most of us go about our lives like nothing is wrong as thousands go without housing. As a result, people experience homelessness and are robbed of years and even decades of time from their lives. The average life expectancy of someone living on the streets is only 48 years. This is not acceptable, and our job will never be done until we ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live a life of dignity. And these lives saved will not be complete until we offer the gift of belonging and unconditional love.

And so we gather to remember the men and women whose lives have been lost, but may we also resolve to act. As a people, we will never be truly great until each of our neighbors is treated with the dignity that we all deserve.

Members of Nashville's Homeless Community who died in 2015

Arthur “Sal” Peck
Leon Brooks
Bryant Crenshaw
Cardell O’Quinn*
Clarence Leron Murphy
Clyde Hicks
Cris Cumner
Danny Anderson
Danny Costello*
David Milliken
Debra Johnson*
Delores Graham* 
Denise Hixson
Donald Lewis Wilson Jr.
Edward Washington
Gary Silcott*
Gloria Foster
Neice Parrish
Gregory Latimer
Hilton D’Wayne Pitts
Homer Wilson
Howard Bottoms*
James Alexander*
James Carruthers
James Larry Moore, “Alabama”*
James Mitchell
James Primm
Jason Vaughan
Jeff Forgy
John Frakes
John Perry
John Wesley Brown*
Joseph Dies
Jason Vaughan
Joseph Truitt
Kenneth Keesee
Kevin Sullivan
Larry Almond
Leon Brooks
Lloyd Barnes
L.W. Hoffmeyer*
Marcus McLaurine
Marcus Moore
Margie Lucas*
Mary Brown*
Michael Moss Magidovitch
Michael O’Carrol
James Primm
Mike Willers
Neice Parrish*
Norman Wayne Dugger
Olivia Davis
Pamela Zanardi*
Randall Allen White, “Cowboy”
Randy “Jimmy” Wilson
Richard Granbeck*
Richard Nash
Robert McMurtry
Robert Stites*
Roger Loftis
Marcus McLaurine
Ronnie Bunch
Roy Smith
Sally Herz*
Sandy Wilson
Shannon Curtis
Steve Stevens
Tami McKenzie
Terrance Eddings
Thomas Holt*
Timothy Waggoner
William Carter William Crain*
William Edward Brown

*denotes the person was formerly homeless

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


I am at a loss. In the past 48 hours, the Room In The Inn community has lost three people. One died of a chronic medical condition, one was struck by a car downtown, and I'm not sure what happened to the third. As we were mourning these losses, I found out about the shootings in California.
I don't understand. Both in my work and in my personal life, I know so many people who are exceptionally good---not just "nice" people, but people who pour out their hearts and energies to care for others. These are people who are desperately trying to make God's kingdom a reality. They are flooding the darkness with their light.
But today, my heart hurts. Today, it seems as though the darkness has the upper hand.
I believe with all my heart that love wins in the end. The struggle is holding on to hope and trusting in the power of redemption.
Maybe it's fitting that it is the season of Advent, the time of waiting. May we have the grace and strength to persevere until our hope is fully realized.

by Mary Wilder

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Inn Crowd: Karen's Story

Karen B. is not only seeking a new life – she is also chasing after hope. In 2001 Karen moved to Nashville to be with her dad as he was struggling with cancer. “He made me promise that I would stay away from drugs and alcohol,” says Karen. “But when he passed away I went straight for the bottle.”

Karen came to Room In The Inn for a place to stay, not to seek treatment. It wasn’t until one day she realized that she wanted to get clean. “Your family can want you to get help, mine did. But, I can’t seek help successfully unless I do it for me, because Karen wants to. And right now, I want to.”

Karen has been staying at the Guest House and has quickly become part of this family. She helps with chores, making plates for people, and stays overnight for on site shelter. She attends Women’s Group daily and has earned a lot of respect from the ladies. “I put in long volunteer hours, but I consider that part of my recovery,” says Karen. “One day I hope to come back and work at RITI. I want to continue giving to people.”

It has been a long road for Karen, but when asked where she finds her hope she says, “I think back to that promise I made my dad, and I’m finally making strides to keep it. I talk to him a lot and know he is shining down on me.”

For the future Karen wants to share her story. “I have experience and I believe through that I can gain people’s trust because they’ll know that I’ve been there too.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday

by Jeff Moles

Like many in Nashville today, I won’t have any ashes smudged on my forehead as I typically would
on Ash Wednesday. Instead, we got a dusting of snow on top of the thickly accumulated ice we already had, and most church services today were canceled. I didn’t need the ashes, though, to remind me of the problem of mortality. I simply had to walk downstairs from my office where hundreds of people suffering from homelessness were huddled, hoping to find shelter from tonight’s deadly sub-zero temperatures. But as I left Room In The Inn tonight, I also saw people of faith pulling up to our door in their vans and buses. Volunteers in thick coats were filing into the door, some having been with us multiple nights this week. I thought of the prophet Isaiah's words:

Is such the fast that I choose,
          a day to humble oneself?
     Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
          and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
     Will you call this a fast,
          a day acceptable to the LORD?
  Is not this the fast that I choose:
          to loose the bonds of injustice,
          to undo the thongs of the yoke,
     to let the oppressed go free,
          and to break every yoke?
  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
          and bring the homeless poor into your house;
     when you see the naked, to cover them,
          and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Room In The Inn’s congregations provided 650 extra shelter beds this week, with more than 150 extra beds offered tonight alone. On this Ash Wednesday night, Nashville has remembered that we are all sisters and brothers in the frailty of life. It has looked for its most vulnerable and welcomed them in. Imagine the result if we let this night of hospitality transform us into people who always care for one another and who make sure nobody is left out. Our frigid Ash Wednesday night might just look more like a warm Easter morning.

  if you offer your food to the hungry
          and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
     then your light shall rise in the darkness
          and your gloom be like the noonday.
  The LORD will guide you continually,
          and satisfy your needs in parched places,
          and make your bones strong;
     and you shall be like a watered garden,
          like a spring of water,
          whose waters never fail.
  Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
          you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
     you shall be called the repairer of the breach, 

          the restorer of streets to live in.

People seeking shelter at Room In The Inn on Mon., Feb. 16

(Isaiah 58:5-12, NRSV, Revised Common Lectionary Reading for Ash Wednesday)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

This Thing Called Love - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day